I have found that the cold icy months are the very best time to order new plants for the gardens and plans for landscaping decks or patios for the coming spring. In only a few short months it will be spring and with plenty of outdoor activities, projects and planting to be done, you will be happy you took the time now to plan. Keep in mind that patio furniture may take three months to deliver, so order now so it will arrive in time for any summertime events.
Start with measuring the area. Remember that many locations are not level and may need special attention. Place a stake at each corner of the space at the lowest point. Tie a string to each stake and use a bubble level to determine the where the level point is. A patio or deck should lean slightly (about 1/2″) away from any buildings to prevent water runoff. A vegetable or flower garden should be relatively flat to ensure that water is absorbed efficiently.
Garden and landscape planning is easily done indoors. Pick a sunny spot by a window. This will put you in the right mindset to begin planning. If you receive seed and plant catalogs, pull them out for inspiration. Some of my favorites are: Burpee, Springhill and Gurneys. Some states have DNR publications that offer trees, shrubs and other plants at a discount. Clip pictures or visit social media sights for garden inspiration. The more inspiration you can glean from these, the better your project will be. Let your creative juices flow. Sketch out a few ideas, even if they are unrealistic. This will give you a starting place. You can always add or delete something later.
For decks, patios, or landscaping, consider the scope of your project and determine if you need to hire contractors and landscape companies. Entice family and friends to help with the project. You can pay them back with a backyard barbeque later this summer.
Keep in mind that summer is a few short months away. Enjoy your future space while planning it. Walk through a day. Have coffee on the deck, follow by picking vegetables in the garden and taking a bouquet of flowers from your garden to a friend. Have wine on the porch, a fire in your backyard fire-pit with toasted marshmallows, and suddenly the winter has gone away. Summer is here, replete with all of the wonderful sights, sounds and smells. Do I hear crickets?