The recent cold front, with temperatures hovering in the teens at night, left some unsightly devastation in our gardens. There are two ways to approach repairing the damage: Wait patiently for three to five months to make sure there is no hope for the withered plants, or immediately remove them and replant the bare spots.

I usually advise the wait-and-see approach because the odds are on the side of there being no permanent damage to the plants. If you have tender plants in your garden, you undoubtedly protected them during the freezing weather. 

Also, some plants take time to show recovery because, I think, they know more about our weather patterns than we do. They are not going to stick their necks out, as it were, until the ambient temperatures reliably soften.

However, if some of the apparent damage is to plants that have annoyed you over the years, then seize this opportunity to actively remove them from your garden. If family members or well-meaning friends think this is foolish or an expensive way to garden, you can simply blame the weather.

Meanwhile, we are starting our seeds indoors — or for peas, sweet or otherwise, outdoors over Presidents’ Day weekend. 

Growing for food banks

Do remember to Plant a Row for the Hungry. If you are unaware of this project started by the Garden Writers Association, here is its link:

Another important focus this year is to help with a funding effort currently underway by the Seattle Giving Gardens Network: The Seattle P-Patch Program includes areas within the p-patch gardens that are set aside to grow fruits and vegetables specifically for food banks and other feeding programs in our city.

The Seattle Giving Gardens Network is an organization that now needs to rely completely on volunteers. To successfully make this transition, it needs to hire a skilled organizer who will put in place, by June 30 of this year, the necessary systems for the volunteers. This is a short-term hire, so the funds are needed now. Surely, as a strong community, we can meet its $4,000 goal. 

The pioneering origins of this organization came out of two dedicated volunteers at the Interbay P-Patch. Let’s thank them and celebrate their efforts with our donations this week. 

Both of these programs need our additional attention this year due to the recent passage of the new Farm Bill. The funding for food stamps has shrunk, while the subsidies to corporate agriculture have risen. 

For those of us with a deep-seated desire for sustainability in our food-supply network, we need to find ways, on a local level, to give our share. Yes, planting a few rows of lettuce, beans or onions seem like such a small effort for this huge task, yet it is similar to the few drops of rain that can make a torrent.

Prepare for spring now

After giving much thoughtful attention to our seasonal productive gardens, we also want to do some pruning. Remember that there are two different types of flowering shrubs: those that flower on last year’s growth, and those that flower later in the year on this year’s growth. An easy way to remember is that the early flowering shrubs can be pruned as they flower, while the later, perhaps summer-flowering shrubs should be pruned now, rather than when they flower.

Also some climbing roses need to be pruned now, especially the hybrid tea sport named ‘Etoile de Hollande.’ Yes, this is true, and the reference can be found in Anna Pavord’s splendid and useful book, “The Curious Gardener: A Year in the Garden.”

With the return of the light, our gardens capture more of our attentions. Hopefully, you are not worn down with tiresome thoughts about mowing lawns or ugly hedgerows of juniper. For you, I would want a garden that brings hard work and is rewarded with pleasure.

If you plot and plan now, between deluges of rain, you will achieve a much more balanced approach for making sure that your garden gives great pleasure back to you. 

If you wait for that first glorious burst of warm sunshine in April to re-introduce yourself to your garden, then your garden projects will just seem totally overwhelming. Again, a little bit of work here and planning and a short list now will make what some call “yard work” truly pleasurable.  

MADELEINE WILDE is a longtime Queen Anne resident. To comment on this column, write to