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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Rain 47° Rain
News >  Spokane

Gardening: As it grows cold, consider row covering, mulching and harvesting

Our gardening season is winding down. The cooler weather has brought the last flush of growth for many plants hammered by the heat and the low light levels caused by the thick wildfire smoke. Roses are putting out their last show of flowers. The tomatoes and the peppers are ripening quickly. Asters and goldenrod, the last flowers to bloom for the year, are full of honey bees getting the last bit of nectar and pollen before they hole up in their hives for the winter. Outlying areas at higher elevations have already experienced their first frost.

Once we get into October, the light levels will drop enough that most plants will begin shutting down and it will be time to harvest the last of the crops – if a frost doesn’t get them first. I have poblano and jalapeno peppers that I have covered with floating row cover so that maybe, just maybe, they will turn red.

I experimented with artichokes this year and have two nice, healthy plants that I want to hold over to see if I can get them to flower next year. I will mulch one of them with pine needles in a raised bed. The other one I am going to plant in a big pot and overwinter in the garage and basement and plant back out in the spring. I am also experimenting with an Arp rosemary plant in my cold frame. I will build a frame covered with heavy floating row cover and then mulch the outside of the box with pine needles. Arp rosemary is supposedly hardy to zero degrees.

The lettuce I planted in the cold frame in mid-August is about ready to harvest so we will have a few tasty salads before we cover it with more floating row cover. I’m hoping it holds over and produces some early fresh greens when the weather starts warming up again.

After we get a good frost, I will harvest half of my bed of Purple Haze carrots to freeze and leave the rest under mulch until spring. The frost will sweeten them up. Purple Haze are a kid favorite because of their purple color which unfortunately disappears when you cook them.

Now is a good time to go after the weeds that have sprouted in the cooler weather. Lay down a mulch of grass clippings, shredded leaves or pine needles after you finish to reduce sprouting in the spring.

Once we get into November it will be time to cut down the tea rose canes by about half and cover the graft point on the lower stem with a foot or so of pine needle mulch. Cutting the canes down keeps them from whipping in the winter wind and auguring holes into the mulch which allows cold air closer to the graft. Pine needles make a particularly good mulch because they don’t hold water and drain quickly which reduces the potential of damage to the graft. Most shrub and climbing roses are completely hardy and need no winter care.

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for over 40 years. She is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Susan Mulvihill. She can be reached at

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