Monthly Garden Calendar for Pacific Northwest United States

Organic Gardening Month-to-Month Almanac

By Debbie Leung



I usually sow cold-hardy salad greens in early October to overwinter in my unheated greenhouse for freshly harvested spring salads in early to mid March. Last fall I got busy with other things and time slipped by. Lingering in my memory was the sight of young greens hunkering (and not growing) for months in late fall and winter, vulnerable to pests and disease as the days shortened.

I thought I'd try sowing my early spring kale, chard, lettuce, mustard, mizuna, and arugula this year on the winter solstice when day length starts to gradually increase and growth slowly resumes. By the latter half of March, I was eating homegrown salads again, not much later than years past when they were sown a couple months earlier. As in spring, extra early sowings of veggies seem to languish after germinating, becoming harvestable at about the same time as those sown later.

Fall Harvest. Harvest pumpkins and winter squash after frost wilts the vines but before a deep freeze. Delicata and acorn squash are ready to eat. Curing develops the flavor and storage capacity of other squashes. Harvest fall crops like leeks, carrots, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and beets as needed.

An Apple a Day. Apples and some pears are ready for harvest when they taste good. Many pears need to be stored, then ripened on a counter in the home. All apples and pears store well in a garage or basement that doesn't freeze.

Dig All the Potatoes. They also store well in an area that is cold but remains unfrozen. Keep them in the dark, like inside a solid box or with a blanket covering them. Exposure to light turns them green, causing indigestion when eaten.

Gorgeous Garlic. Plant garlic in a sunny spot in rich, well-drained soil amended with compost. Separate heads into cloves and plant the cloves with the pointy end up, a couple knuckles deep and a palm width apart in all directions.

Winter Greens. Winter greens, like kale and chard, will be thankful for some protection from heavy rain and wind. Push heavy wire into the ground to make hoops over the plants. A row cover thrown over the top and held down with large rocks can do wonders.

Dig It Up. After dahlia plants die back from frost, dig the roots for winter storage. Cut the main stalk to the root, gently wash off dirt, and let dry for a couple hours. Place them in a box covered with dry peat moss or sawdust. Store in a cool location that won't freeze.

Weed Watch. Weeds can be controlled in perennial beds and under trees with mulch. It also slows down the cooling of the soil to let root systems continue to develop. Don't let mulch pile up against tree trunks and avoid mulching in areas of high slug or snail infestations.

Prepare for the Cold. Get garden machines ready for winter. Clean them, empty the gas tanks, change the oil, sharpen blades, and make needed repairs.

Split Up Perennials. Divide hardy perennials to expand plantings or give to friends. Now is also a good time to move them to better locations. Plant new trees and hardy perennials to get them established before winter sets in.