1. Plants: Tear Out, Prune, or “Tuck In”?
The first step is to identify which of your plants will be able to handle the winter on their own, which need to be ripped out, and which need protection. Some plants that are classified as cold hardy, may experience frost damage to their outer leaves. However, the heart of the vegetable is still pretty resilient to colder temperatures. Root vegetables for instance, can enjoy the insulation of the ground even if their tops wilt and die off.
According to Oregon State University (OSU) Extension, semi-hardy vegetables can withstand light frosts down to around 29° F. The following vegetables are considered semi-hardy:
Cold hardy vegetables are not only resilient down to around 25° F, they often taste better after enduring a frost. These plants include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Walla Walla sweet onions
- Fava beans
- Winter pea
*Note: Vegetables with the purple/magenta pigment anthocyanin, are extra resistant to winter rot.
Unlike landscaping plants, most food bearing trees, bushes, and canes should be pruned in the early spring. Pruning woody plants stimulates growth. If pruned in the fall, any new growth would not have a chance to harden off and become strong before the winter. There are a few exceptions:
- Fall-bearing raspberry canes can, and should, be aggressively pruned in the fall.
- Asparagus can also be pruned to the ground to make room for fresh shoots in the spring.
- Woody herbs (like sage, thyme, cold-hardy rosemary) can be pruned back in fall or spring.
- Move sensitive plants and perennials inside and ensure they have adequate lighting.
- Mulch around strawberries, blueberries, woody herbs, and anything else you would like to keep protected over the winter. (read more about mulch in the section below)
- Remove wilting and dying vegetation but leave the roots in your soil (they will break down over the winter and increase your organic matter levels).
- Remove weeds, roots and all.
- Throw away any plants with blight, insect infestations, fungus, or other ailments.
- Use the healthy (non-weed) plant debris in your compost (see compost in section below).
2. Tend to Your Soil
Many people don’t think about testing or amending their soil until the spring. However, fall is the perfect time to invest in healthy soil. Changes you start in the fall will have all winter to settle in before spring planting.
Test & Amend
- Test your soil for nutrient deficiencies, pH levels, and physical texture. For a quick, thorough, and easy to use test, try Redmond's very own Soil Test Kit!
- Amend your soil in the fall to correct any problems before spring.
Fall is the perfect time to add brown matter to your compost pile and/or use as mulch for your garden.
- Do not use any plant debris with pest or disease infestations for compost or mulch.
- Rake up and collect fall leaves.
- Bag and save some of your leaves so you can add layers of brown matter to any green matter (kitchen scraps) you add to your compost during the winter.
- Run over the remaining leaf pile with your mower (large, intact leaves can mat up and create a cap that actually prevents moisture from getting down into your soil).
- Add a few inches of compost, manure, etc. to your garden beds
- Cover with a light layer of leaf mulch or straw to prevent soil erosion, nutrient leaching, and weed growth.
3. Sow Winter Cover Crops
Some gardeners choose to plant winter cover crops to protect their bare soil instead of mulching. Cover crops can help prevent winter erosion (especially from wind), and support the nitrogen cycle in your soil.
- Some common crops are: oats, winter rye, winter wheat, crimson clover, and hairy vetch.
- Learn more about winter cover crops from the University of Maryland Extension.
4. Water/Ice Readiness
- Check greenhouses, hoop houses, and sheds for sturdiness and make sure they can handle snowfall and icy buildup.
- Water perennials well before shutting off exterior water.
- Turn off exterior water sources and empty hoses of leftover water.
- Stock up on plant friendly ice melt, like mineral rich Nature’s Blend for garden paths and walkways.
- Click to learn more about plant safe ice melt and how Nature’s Blend can keep you safe during the winter and protect your garden in the spring.
5. Store Garden Supplies
- Remove trellises, plant cages, and plant supports.
- Clean off plant debris and broken ties and store in a dry location for next year.
- Clean and oil metal garden tools to prevent rust and corrosion during the winter.
For larger homesteads and farms, take a look at our free Farm Winter Safety Guide for a safe and healthy winter ahead!
For over 50 years, Redmond Minerals soil program has proudly helped growers enjoy more productive, resilient, and nutrient dense crops. Give Redmond a call today at to see how Redmond can help you grow higher yield and more nutrient dense plants.
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