The garden doesn't stop when summer ends. Here are some tips for successful winter gardening...
1. Prepare the beds in early fall when the soil is easily worked. Amend soil with plenty of organic matter (compost) for good drainage and nutrients.
2. Make your winter garden only one-third or one-quarter the size of your summer garden. The range of vegetables you can grow is narrower (unless you invest in a heated greenhouse).
3. If you make a garden plot in a new area, get a soil test to find out if the soil lacks nutrients. Calcium may be needed.
4. Salad greens are the easiest plants to start with. Arugula, less bitter in winter than in summer, is a good choice. As you get more experience, try other varieties and types. Though it may be tempting to try carrots or other veggies you love during winter, make them a project for your second winter. Peppers and tomatoes are especially challenging and require a heated environment.
5. Timing is everything. When you've chosen the vegetables you want to try, consult references for specific information on when to direct-seed (that is, to plant directly in ground) and when to put out transplants. It is vital to set up a schedule crop by crop; if you don't, you may not get your winter salad. Territorial Seed Co., based in Cottage Grove, offers a planting chart online, as does the Oregon State University Extension Service.
6. Fertilize lightly when planting, if at all. If soil is rich, you won't need to.
7. Air circulation and keeping beds or pots tidy are important to prevent fungal diseases: Space plants more widely than in a summer garden. If starting from seed, thin young plants at least once (and eat those you remove). Remove any diseased portions promptly.
8. If you haven't started your plants under cover (in a greenhouse, for example), cover them before first frost.
1. Once a seed sprouts it must be kept watered. If it dries out, it dies. If seeds are lightly covered with soil, they may need to be gently sprinkled with water once or twice a day to keep them moist.
2. Earthworms are extremely beneficial to the soil and plants, increasing air space in the soil and leaving behind worm castings. Do everything you can to encourage earthworms in your soil.
3. A garden soil that has been well mulched and amended periodically requires only about a 1 inch layer of compost yearly to maintain its quality.
4. For an organic approach to pest control, build up your soil to encourage healthy microbes and other soil microorganisms, and earthworms. Healthy soil means healthy plants that are better able to resist pests and disease, thus reducing the need for harmful pesticides.
5. If you can not use finished compost for a while, cover the pile with a tarp to avoid leaching the nutrients out of the compost.
6. Companion planting is an excellent way to improve your garden. Some plants replenish nutrients lost by another one, and some combinations effectively keep pests away.
7. Dry your herbs at the end of the summer by tying sprigs together to form small bunches. Tie them together with a rubber band and hang, tips down, in a dry place out of the sun. Keep the bunches small to ensure even circulation. Store dry in labeled canning jars, either whole or crumbled. Freezing is also a good way to preserve herbs.
8. Water in the morning to help avoid powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that are often spread by high humidity.
9. Grow High-Value Crops. “Value” is subjective, though growing things that would be costly to buy makes good sense, provided the crops are well-suited to your climate. But value can also be about flavor, which may mean earmarking space for your favorite tomato varieties and fresh herbs first, and then considering how much money you could save by growing other crops at home.
10. Start Early, End Late. Use cloches, cold frames, tunnels and other season-stretching devices to move your spring salad season up by a month or more. In fall, use row covers to protect fall crops from frost and deer while extending the harvest season for a wide assortment of cold-tolerant greens and root crops.
11. Grow the “Shoulder Season” Fruits. You can usually pick and stash June-bearing strawberries and early raspberries in the freezer before your garden’s vegetables take over your kitchen. Raspberries that bear in the fall and late-ripening apples are also less likely to compete with summer-ripening vegetables for your food preservation time.
12. Emphasize What Grows Well for You. Crops that are easy to grow in one climate or soil type may be huge challenges in others, so aim to repeat your successes. For example, my carrots are seldom spectacular but my beets are robust, so I keep carrot plantings small and grow as many beets as my family can eat. When you find vegetables that excel in your garden, growing as much of them as your family can eat will take you a huge step closer to food self-sufficiency. And don’t overlook the wisdom of your gardening neighbors.
13. To prevent the line on your string trimmer from jamming or breaking, treat with a spray vegetable oil before installing it in the trimmer.
14. Turn a long-handled tool into a measuring stick! Lay a long-handled garden tool on the ground, and next to it place a tape measure. Using a permanent marker, write inch and foot marks on the handle. When you need to space plants a certain distance apart (from just an inch to several feet) you'll already have a measuring device in your hand.
15. The next time you boil or steam vegetables, don't pour the water down the drain, use it to water potted patio plants, and you'll be amazed at how the plants respond to the "vegetable soup."
16. The quickest way in the world to dry herbs: just lay a sheet of newspaper on the seat of your car, arrange the herbs in a single layer, then roll up the windows and close the doors. Your herbs will be quickly dried to perfection. What's more, your car will smell great.
17. Try Something New Every Year. Part of the fun of gardening is discovering new things, and few of us have ever grown many edible crops worth trialing in our gardens. Keep in mind that you’ll need to try cool-season crops in both spring and fall before deciding whether they are garden-worthy. Some crops (or even varieties) that are duds if grown in spring may amaze you with their exuberance if grown in fall.
18. Plant in Blocks. According to Colorado State University Extension research, you can quadruple per-square-foot production of small kitchen vegetables such as lettuce, carrots and beets by planting them in blocks within wide beds rather than in rows. Block planting makes efficient use of space by keeping the spacing between plants tight and eliminating unnecessary pathways.
19. Weed Early and Often. Most garden crops require weeding at least three times: Plan to weed five to seven days after sowing or transplanting, again seven to 10 days later, and a third time three to four weeks after the crop has been planted. By that time, the plants should be big enough to mulch and should have plenty of leaves to shade the soil’s surface.
20. Roses Love Bananas: Since roses love potassium, whenever I have an old banana, I plant it near one of my rose bushes. They’ve never done better!
21. Weed Control in Vegetable Gardens: A great way to avoid weeds around vegetable crops such as tomatoes or squash is to plant low growing, quick harvest crops such as lettuce or radish around the base of the larger veggies. This will fill up the empty spaces until the late harvest plants have filled out more, providing less places for weeds to grow. It will also keep the soil around the plant shaded and moist which means less watering.
22. Safety For Walk-Behind Mowers: Do not put your hands or feet near or under the mower.Never tilt a walk-behind mower; always keep all four wheels on the ground. Do not pull the mower backward unless absolutely necessary. Always look down and behind before and while mowing backwards.
23. You Play a Vital Role: Keep cords away from heat and sharp objects. Also ensure cords aren't dangling and presenting a tripping hazard.