Planning Your Veggie Garden
Each winter as you begin planning next season’s veggie garden, you need to make some tough decisions on what fruits and vegetables to grow. One focus might be types that are highly perishable or expensive to purchase. Another is varieties that are difficult to find at your grocery or farmers’ market. A third might be foods that are extra good for your body or those that you eat frequently. And of course, it is always a good idea to choose varieties that grow best in our area.
You also need to consider your garden location and size. Does it get at least 6 hours of sun? What veggies can tolerate some shade? How much space can you allocate for a vining plant? Is there a bush variety or can you grow vines on supports? How long will your plant take to produce? For example, winter squash need lots of room and 3+ months to mature.
Then develop your plan. Plant things you know you’ll eat or can put up. Less is more – do you really need five zucchini plants? Sequence your plantings so your harvest isn’t all at once but extended. Reseeding veggies like lettuces and radishes every few weeks can provide an ongoing supply. Finally, do a reality check: how much time can you allocate to watering, watching for pests, harvesting, fertilizing, etc.? Find more information here.
- Regularly monitor your garden for pest damage, dislodged mulch, storm damage.
- Use this time of less leaves and blooms to look over your garden and consider changes.
- Use dormant sprays of lime sulfur or copper fungicide on roses for general disease control and spray peach trees with fungicides to combat peach leaf curl and shothole.
- Now is the time to begin pruning non spring-blooming shrubs, but only if necessary.
Managing Excess Water
While our Pacific Northwest summers appear to be getting drier, the prediction is for more moisture during our wet season, especially as big dumps. Consider some of these changes to help manage excess water on your property.
Building a swale will redirect water drainage. Make sure, though, that it doesn’t direct flow toward your neighbors or directly off your property. Instead, make its focus a bed whose plants can handle extra water or a rain garden. Rain gardens provide a place for water to pool and can be vegetated with plants that can tolerate lots of moisture, like many PNW natives. Learn more here.
Less intensive solutions include diverting the water from your downspouts so it doesn’t puddle in one spot or collecting the water in rain barrels or cisterns for use during dry times. Another is using a heavier weight mulch that doesn’t float away. For vegetable gardens in wetter areas, consider building raised beds which will provide drier feet for your plants.
Finally, need a new driveway or walk? Consider using gravel instead of concrete which will allow rain to percolate into the soil rather than run off.
- Protect your compost pile from heavy rains to reduce loss of nutrients.
- Adding a new garden bed? Turn the sod over now so the grass and weeds can decompose before spring.
- If you put green kitchen waste in your compost bin, keep the bin fully enclosed and lidded to keep out rats.
- When planting new trees or shrubs, don’t mound mulch against their base as it may encourage rodents and result in damage.
With our gardens now mostly put to bed, November is a good month to focus on houseplants. These may be year round indoor residents or tender plants that enjoy summers outdoors. Light is the most critical factor. Try to place plants as close as possible to windows so that they can avail themselves of our limited winter light. As the temperature next to windows may be too cool, keep a watch and consider adding supplemental light if plants need to be moved away a bit.
Rooms with high temperatures or locations next to heating vents can also cause problems for plants, as does incorrect watering. Hard dry soil can’t easily absorb water. For most houseplants, it is important to keep the soil evenly moist. Increasing humidity – by grouping plants, using a humidifier, or misting – can help. Plants that have outgrown their pots with more roots than soil, also have difficulty taking up water or nutrients. They should be repotted this month before they go dormant.
Even plants that aren’t root bound need their soil replenished occasionally to continue thriving. Be sure to use a soil meant for container plants – not regular garden soil – and water with a weak solution of water-soluble fertilizer just once a month during dormancy. Find more houseplant information here.
- Finish planting all spring-blooming bulbs.
- Apply dolomite if a soil test has shown that you need lime.
- Mulch all beds and insulate prized tender plants with cages filled with straw or leaves.
- Help shrubs under house eaves avoid drought damage by watering them deeply every 6 to 8 weeks, but only when the air temperature is above freezing.