Winterizing your Pacific Northwest Garden: It starts with clean up.
We know, we know. This is probably the least exciting advice that we could give you, but it really is an important part of making sure that you’re finishing the job while prepping for another bountiful garden once spring comes. Did you plant different varieties of squash, like acorn, butternut, pumpkin, or spaghetti?
What about root vegetables like beets, carrots, yams, onions, and parsnips. And don’t forget about the late bloomers, like broccoli and different varieties of herbs. Point being, make sure you’ve harvested everything. Don’t let it go to waste.
You put so much time, energy, and money into your garden throughout the spring and summer months, that you really should take advantage of every needle of rosemary or kernel of sunflower you can.
Once you’ve harvested everything you can, clean up any outstanding plant matter, leaves, or other mess and debris that might be in your garden beds or spaces where you’ve been growing your vegetables.
Lastly, when it comes to cleaning up, do a thorough weeding, a task that, unless you’re so inclined to do so during the winter months, you won’t need to revisit until spring!
Winterizing your Pacific Northwest Garden: Tending the soil
Soil, naturally, is crucial to the success of your garden, and the way you prepare your soil in the winterization process will help make it healthier and easier to work with once you’re ready to start planting in the spring.
With the constant rains of the Pacific Northwest winters pounding down on the ground, including that of your garden’s precious soil, the earth can become incredibly compact, which can in turn cause difficulty in new plants ability to grow and thrive.
One way to keep your garden soil from becoming compact and difficult to work with is by giving it some sort of coverage. Some gardeners will do so by planting what is called a coverage crop, such as clover, arugula, cilantro, or legumes. However, this is supposed to be as low-maintenance as possible, right? So, if you’re not interested in planting any of these plants or other good winter ground coverings, why not go with some mulch?
A mixture of leaves, straw, grass clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and other compostables layered over your soil can then be covered by sheets or burlap. This creates the perfect layer of insulation for your soil. The combination of the rainy weather, the inevitable helpful worms, and the natural process of these organic materials breaking down will, over time, further enrich the soil, giving you some very nice dirt to work with once spring comes.
Winterizing your Pacific Northwest Garden: Irrigation systems
If you’re lucky enough to have an irrigation system for your garden or for your yard (and these are becoming increasingly common for yards of all shapes and sizes, due to efficiency, ease of use, and the way they manage resources), then you probably should do a few important things with it before winter comes.
The hoses. Now, if you use drip lines or even just a standard hose connected to a spigot, you could just leave them in place, but are you really going to use them? Yes, it’s one more thing to put away and get out again next year, but 1) it will make your yard neater and tidier if you do put them away, and 2) you’re going to prolong the life of those hoses or drip lines if you don’t leave them out in the rain and fluctuating temperatures throughout the season. Hoses tended to weather and crack when left out, so why not protect your pocketbook — even if it’s just a little bit — by putting those hoses away in a safe place.
The timers. One of the reasons irrigation systems have become so increasingly efficient is because of their timers. If you happen to use battery operated timers, then make sure to disconnect them and store them with the rest of the equipment you usually pair them with when they’re in use during the spring and summer months. This will make things easier the next time you set them up next year. If your irrigation system’s timer is a wall unit — like those you might find in a garage, shed, pole barn, or outbuilding, turn them off, unplug them, or adjust them to whatever winter setting is most appropriate for your situation.
Winterizing your Pacific Northwest Garden: Put away your tools, put up your feet
Gather all of your shovels, trimmers, trowels, pruning devices, and whatever other gardening gear you have outside and put it in your shed, garage, or wherever you typically store your tools. But before you put them away, give them a quick rinse so you (and they) will have a clean start in the spring.
Gardening is such a satisfying experience, and you’ve earned yourself a break. Put a log in the fire, pour yourself a warm cup of whatever tickles your fancy, and put your feet up. You’ve earned. Maybe even leaf through a few pages in the latest gardening book and start dreaming about next year’s garden!