Two weeks ago, we were basking in 70- and 80-degree weather. Sunday morning, we are predicted to have a low of around 20 degrees and a high of 36. Welcome to fall weather in the Inland Northwest. The weather service is forecasting a La Nina winter, which means it will be colder and wetter than average.
What does this mean for gardeners, especially those who are new to this adventure? Simply put, get your hoses and sprinkler systems winterized before Sunday, if at all possible. At our house, one of our sprinkler systems won’t be blown out until late next week, so we are covering the valve box with insulation and a heavy tarp until our service people come. The hoses and hose end timers are drained and stored away. Be sure to drain water features and fountains.
Pick any apples or pears that are still on the trees. Fruit can take cold into the high 20s but not down to 20. It will freeze on the tree and turn to mush when it thaws out. Store them in cardboard boxes in a garage.
The leaves on some exposed trees may freeze, but that won’t hurt the tree. The leaves may hang on the tree for a while, but the winter wind will take them off eventually. What we may lose is any good fall color because freezing cuts off the coloring up process.
If you have container plants on a patio or deck, bunch them together in a sheltered spot for the winter. Don’t store them under house eaves because they won’t get any rain or snow to keep them watered. If the plants are not hardy to USDA Zone 5, consider pulling them into a garage or sheltered shed. Even if they have leaves, they aren’t going to need a lot of light. If the soil in the pots isn’t frozen, water once a month until spring.
Bring terra cotta and other porous clay or concrete pots inside where it’s dry. These pots soak up water and crack in freezing temperatures. The water between the clay particles expands when it freezes and causes the container to shatter. Hard-fired clay pots can be left out or covered with a tarp.
If you are going to be plowing or blowing the snow off walks and driveways, make a quick survey for vegetation growing over the path and trim it back. Snow needs to be pushed as far back from the walk or driveway as is possible so there is room for more snow through the winter.
If you’ve left cabbages and kale in the garden, harvest them as 20 degrees is too cold for them. If you are overwintering carrots or garlic, cover them with 2 inches of shredded pine needles or leaves for protection.
It has been a crazy gardening year and I’m glad to see it wind down. The seed catalogs will be here in December, and we can start all over.