- Don't forget to water! Despite the fact the winter monsoons have begun, we still get dry spells. Watch carefully for water stress during periods without rain, and water appropriately (an inch a week as the rule of thumb) until winter really shows up.
- Mulch shrubs, trees, perennials, and herbs after temperatures get chilly.
- Plant trees, shrubs, perennials and herbs after the first killing frost.
- If you have time, with all the planting, clean up and composting going on, try to get some vegetable beds prepared for spring planting (especially the one for sugar and snow peas this February). Till, double dig (if you prefer to work your garden soil), or top-dress each bed and add organic matter, powdered rock (such as rock phosphate) and lime. Leave the high nitrogen fertilizer till planting time. Overseed your prepped beds and any other bare spots in your garden with a cover crop of annual rye or crimson clover. While everybody else is waiting for their soil to dry out, you'll be ready to rock and roll.
- Year-Round Kitchen Garden:
- As nights turn nippy, cover your fall/winter crops with floating row covers. See row covers.
- Keep weeding, thinning, harvesting and watering your cool-season vegetables. Cold season crops prefer a wider spacing than in warmer weather, so keep thinning them. You can eat the thinnings. A simple soaker hose system works well under the row covers. Crops will benefit from applications of soluble organic fertilizer or compost tea as the weather gets colder and soil microbes go dormant.
- Plant asparagus crowns this month. If you already have asparagus, cut back the ferny tops as they die back after the first heavy frost.
- Woody and Ornamental:
- For roses, clean up loose branches, cut back sick branches and trim or tie long canes so they don't break in the wind. But don't go much beyond that - wait until late winter before doing any heavy pruning on your roses, especially the hybrid teas. Keep roses mulched and watered - remember, winter winds can seriously stress plants. If there's a prediction of winds, water.
- Plant fruit trees, berry bushes, and woody ornamentals now, if you can get them.
- When buying fruit trees, especially plums, peaches and apples, be sure to check the chill hours in your area (a measure of low temperatures [between 45° and 32°] over time). Match the varieties you select to local conditions to avoid plants that flower too soon and get blasted by our area's unpredictable frosts.
- Except for the camellias, which may still need a bit of post-bloom cleanup, put away the pruning shears until February or so.
- Soil and Maintenance:
- This is still a prime time to send in a soil test, since labs are less busy in the fall. See Soil and Plant Laboratory Serving the Northwest from Bellevue WA.
- Keep compost piles from becoming oversaturated and nutrients from leaching into groundwater. Use tarps or other coverings to protect them from heavy rainfall.
- Remove and compost all dead plants that are disease-free. Cut out the dead parts of perennials. Put diseased plant parts in the yard waste bin.
- Take advantage of dry, frosty mornings by raking leaves. They're light and easy to rake into the compost pile or onto flower beds after they've been freeze dried.
- Protect bare soil by mulching or cover-cropping. Pounding rain can cause erosion as well as damaging soil texture.
- Clean your garden tools. Sharpen shovels, hoes, and shears. Sand and oil the wooden handles. Organize the tool shed and dispose of any out-of-date and non-organic chemicals. Check with your local garbage utility for instructions on how to safely dispose of toxic chemicals.
- Believe it or not, you may still have to mow your cool climate lawn. So long as the daytime temperatures are above about 45°, it'll still be growing.
- Critters Good and Otherwise
- Protect plants from hungry rabbits and deer - if you can. It's not easy keeping a determined deer away from your prized azalea. Commercial repellents and homemade 'scent sacks' (mothballs, urine, smelly soaps...) might do the trick, but barriers are a more likely solution, either chicken wire cages for small plants or fencing for larger areas.
- Remember, birds need both food and water in winter. Suet adds fat to bird diets so consider hanging it out in addition to the seeds in the feeders. Keep the water basin or birdbath filled and free of ice. Native hollies and dogwoods provide food and shelter for wildlife, so consider adding bird-friendly plants to your landscape.
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