Willamette Valley Oregon, Zone 8b

Cheers to you and a happy beginning to the new year!

It is an opportune time to reflect on the past year and dream your dreams for the coming one.

Create a Plan

Get out your property basemap (or draw one, or print a satellite view of your place on Google Maps) and ruminate about what worked and what didn’t. Then take out a fresh notebook and write up your goals and create plans to realize them. Include new IPM strategies and shopping lists for materials. Share your plans in the comments to inspire others. You’re welcome to scan my past year’s plans to inspire your own.

Order Your Seeds & Plants

My mailbox has already bequeathed upon me several catalogs of seed-joy and inspiration. Ah, to dream! Nurseries should be ready to send out dormant season trees and other perennials soon, but a pre-order will ensure your choices are reserved for you.

Favorite Seed Companies

Dormant Season Pruning of Fruit Trees, Shrubs, and Canes  

Now is a good time to prune most fruit trees (except cherries). As well as cane fruits like grapes, raspberries, blackberries. Wait until February for roses and blueberries.

Read my Pruning Primer to give you the confidence to get started.

Propagate Fruit and Herbs from Cuttings

Cold Stratify Flower Seeds

This is a bit of evolutionary genius. Perhaps you’ve noticed how in October after a week of good rain seeds begin germinating everywhere that have no hope of surviving to maturity this late in the season. Some seeds won’t germinate until they have undergone at least a month of cold and wet, followed by warm temperatures. These seeds refuse to be tricked into a suicidal fall germination. Pretty smart, right? So we have to be smart too and either sow them in the fall/winter and let nature do her thing or duplicate those cold and wet conditions in our refrigerator to signal to them that it’s safe to germinate.

  • Prairie flowers like echinacea, soapwort, lavender, milkweed, fever few, lupine, bee balm (not required, but helps)
  • Artichoke

My favorite method is to dampen a paper towel, lay the seeds inside, and carefully fold them in. Then I place it all in a jelly jar. I cover with wax paper and screw on a canning ring. I label it with the date and seed name. I also like to add a ready date or the number of required weeks. Then I pop it in the fridge. I check on the seeds every other week and moisten the paper towel if it starts to dry.

Soil Testing

It’s not too late to test your soil. Based on your results, there is still time to raise or lower your pH before spring. However, hold of on amending for nutrients until a couple weeks before spring planting.

Here is a full write up on my soil testing methods and results. Don’t miss my soil testing video–it’s all kinds of awkward, but also packed with information.

Winter Wildlife Care

  • Provide high energy bird food like suet. Be wary of messy bird seed feeders. They can encourage rats and mice to move in under your house. 
  • Thistle sock for finches. 
  • Make sure water sources are clean and ice free.
  • Clean and refill hummingbird feeders once a week. Consider bringing them in at night to prevent freezing.
  • Wash finch socks and suet cages between feedings. Bird feeders attract a lot of visitors during the winter. Clean feeding stations prevent a sick bird from spreading harmful bacteria or viruses to their friends.
  • If you want to feed squirrels, place a small amount of nuts or seeds out in the morning, but no more than they can eat or stash in one day. Full squirrel feeders will become rat feeders at night. Most suburban neighborhoods lack the array of natural predators to keep rodent populations in check. Their population can explode with a good food source and they like to shelter in the crawl space of your house. 
  • Embrace the beautiful mess of a winter garden. Wildlife appreciates a “messy” garden. Feel free to leave herb stems, leaves (but not from fruit trees), asparagus fronds, daisy stems, and other debris. Our garden friends appreciate a place to spend the winter, many are in hollow stems and under leaves. Whenever I am mucking about in the garden in winter I find sleeping ladybugs, hiding spiders, beetles, and all kinds of other bugs. Birds perch on the stems and fronds and love to kick the leaves around to forage for snacks. I save my big clean-up until spring; at about 55-60 degrees most insects emerge and become active again.


  • Note standing water
  • Frost lines
  • Look for symptoms of disease and infestation. Remove infected plants. For example, I have a problem with rose cane girdler which infests my blackberries and raspberries canes. Infested canes are easy to spot. I cut those out to remove the overwintering larvae so they can’t emerge in the spring.

Chinook Winds

When you hear the weather report referring to the Chinook Winds ensure that any tender plants are protected. These eastern winds are channeled through the Columbia Gorge. They are powerful, dry, and very cold—a trifecta that can take out our tender plants that usually happily winter over in the Willamette Valley. Build a wind break or cover tender plants with an old sheet, row cover, or white plastic. Be sure to weigh down the edges with rocks or bricks to hold them in place. Also make sure potted plants don’t desiccate.

5 responses to “January”

  1. Amy,

    This is such a great, thorough assessment of what to look at in your garden /yard in January. I feel like I always head to osu extension, but it’s missing some info or details. I love how personal this is and applies to a similar location. I’ll keep following.


    Liked by 1 person

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