Willamette Valley, Oregon Zone 8b
🍂 Care for some tea? 🫖
After tea, let’s head out to the garden, collect some seeds to save and share, plant a few things for an early spring harvest, and put the remaining garden soil to bed for a cozy winter nap. Once that’s done, we can head inside to eat our fresh fall greens and berries, then get to work putting up our crops for winter.
There are free seeds all over your garden. I purposefully let many of my vegetables flower and go to seed just to get this harvest. After a few generations, your seeds begin to be adapted to your specific environmental conditions and can outperform seeds you buy. Read my article, Free Seeds! A Seed Saving Primer, for tips.
What to Sow or Transplant:
🧄 Garlic – Any seed garlic will do, but if you can get your hands on hardneck garlic from a local grower, do it. You’ll get a flavorful bulb and a bonus spring harvest of garlic scapes. Expect to harvest bulbs in mid-July. Ready my guide for Growing Garlic in 5 Easy Steps.
🧅Spring Harvest Onions – Start in pots and transplant outside for a spring harvest. Ideally, I start my seeds in August and transplant this month, but it’s not too late. You can buy starts at your local nursery or give it a go and see what happens. Good varieties to try are Gate Keeper, Walla Walla and Keepwell.
🌱Cover Crop – Cover crops are wonderful for keeping your soil protected and microbes fed all winter. There are many cover crops to choose from, just be certain that you choose one that is formulated for fall. Favas, daikon radish, oat grass, vetch, Australian field pea, crimson clover, barley, and winter wheat are all good choices. My favorite is a blend from True Leaf Market. Depending on when I sow these seeds there’s always enough seeds that are happy to fill in any gaps for those whose window I missed. Plan to hoe in your cover crop in March to give the foliage time to break down and further enrich the soil.
Now that the harvest is in, the question becomes what to do with the bounty. I have a page to help with that, Simple Harvest Storage Techniques. My question for you, my friend, is what is your favorite methods for storing your garden bounty?
Winterize your Garden:
Putting your garden to bed for the winter protects and feeds our soil fauna friends, and replenishes important soil nutrients, except nitrogen. Nitrogen added to the soil in the fall/winter may wash out and add to watershed pollution.
Full article: Garden Winterization Techniques.
Winterize Irrigation System:
Drip systems need to be turned off and drained for winter to prevent damage to the fittings. To do this, open all the valves and slip off the figure 8 end clamps and let the water drain, lifting where necessary to get the water moving. Then replace the clamps to keep critters from moving in. For more detailed information check out this article by DripWorks: How to Winterize a Drip Irrigation System.
Conventional Irrigation Systems:
Our favorite method is to use an air compressor to force the system to drain. Please see this video from Ewing Irrigation for more information: How to Winterize Your Irrigation System (Blowout Sprinkler System)
Time to add new mulch! Your perennials will appreciate a new layer of mulch to protect from the pounding rain and damaging frost. To prevent stem rot, suffocation, and rodent girdling, be sure that mulch does not contact trunks of trees or shrubs. The exception to this rule is when using pine shavings on blueberry shrubs. They don’t mind having mulch all around the stems. (There’s always that one exception!) For more details, read my guide for understanding what kinds of mulch to use where.
Pest and Disease Prevention Measures:
Slugs: you can be sure that the cool damp weather means these mucous encased munchers will be back in action. See my guide for controlling their numbers to give your fall crops a chance. Once established, at SBG, all overwintering plants must fend for themselves. For more details, read my Slug IPM guide.
In the home orchard remove from your property:
- All dropped fruit.
- Fallen fruit tree leaves. (This is where many pests and diseases overwinter.)
In the cane fruit patch:
- Removed dead or diseased canes.
- Look for any sign of critical infestations or infections for example:
- Rose Cane Girdler – the larvae overwinters inside the cane and creates a gall like swelling and splitting of the cane. To see cut at swelling and look for the larvae or its tracks.
- Crown Gall – large gall at the base of the plant.
- Root Rot – sad looking cane that comes up easily when pulled with minimal root formation.
In the Garden:
Removed any crops that failed due to disease problems. Aphids and powdery mildew are a fact of life here in the PNW and, in general, don’t cause crops to fail. However, more virulent diseases and pests do and those should be removed so as not to perpetuate the disease.
Unsure about a pest or disease diagnosis?
Send a detailed email to your local extension office with photos, to confirm identification of pest/disease. They can also help with an IPM plan to control the problem.
- Mow on a high setting.
- Aerate your lawn with a broadfork, digging fork, or aerator.
- Sprinkle Compost: Plants do better with organic matter in the soil. If you don’t have pets that will track it in the house, consider sprinkling compost over your grass. Spread the compost using a digging fork by lightly tossing to spread or agitating the fork to sprinkle. Have a lawn rake close at hand to distribute compost that piles up. A light layer won’t smother your grass and will break down over the winter feeding your soil.
- Tip: Start in one corner, and work your way towards your back door area that is mulched. (Like mopping a floor.)
Wildlife Care: 🐦🐞🕷🦋🐀
- Birdbaths: Continue to clean once a week. The cooler weather will inhibit algae growth, but to keep it from spreading sickness it should be flushed out and or scrubbed regularly. If you don’t love being out in the cold/wet, it’s OK to take it down for the winter.
- Feeding: Suet is a great way to provide energy through the winter and is not messy. If using a seed feeder, don’t skimp on the blend. Get the good stuff, birds are choosy and will fling out the stuff they don’t like. Then mice and rats 🐀 will do clean up and maybe set up camp under your house. I go for black sunflower seeds in a wire-mesh cylinder feeder. The birds have to work the seeds out individually. I also bring my seed feeders in at night.
- Hummingbirds: Some of our Anna’s hummingbirds choose to overwinter and rely on nectar feeders to make it through. Clean and refill at least once a week. I have a glass feeder and like to pour the nectar in while it is still very hot to help sanitize the feeder. Then I let it cool on my counter before hanging it back outside.
- Bugs and stuff: 🕷🍂Leave the leaves, wherever you can. (Except in the orchard–those ones have to go.) Use them to cover your beds and any bare soil. Leave flower stalks and seed heads and such until early spring. Most of our insect friends overwinter as soil larvae, eggs, or in their adult form. They need shelter and food and will thank you by coming back in large numbers in the spring. (E.g., as soon as the aphids show up–I find 🐞 ladybug eggs and larvae everywhere.) I always leave spider eggs sacs too, they are voracious consumers of pest species.
- If you’re feeling bad about leaving your yard messy for fall and winter, read this article from the Audubon Society and you will feel much better about it. To Help Birds this Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yardwork.
- Grow Veg Video: The Best Way to Store Root Vegetables
- Grow Veg Video: Grow Perfect Garlic
- OSU Extension: Tips on Keeping Harvested Potatoes Fresh
- OSU Extension:Managing Diseases and Insects in Home Orchards
- OSU Extension:Collecting and Storing Seeds from your Garden
- OSU Extension:Guide to Growing Cover Crops
- Iowa State Extension: Harvesting and Storing Winter Squash