What I'm up to this Winter at PDX Garden Home

Winter is the time for infrastructure projects.  Well late Fall into Winter, because there is a short window for that,  for me, December through January.  After that we get into prime time for starting and raising seedlings.  I actually kick off seedlings by January, but it really kicks into full gear by February. 

So what I should call this post, is, "What I’m up to in the December through January at PDX Garden Home!"

My Winter Infrastructure projects this year include,

  1. Setting up the basement nursery
  2. Putting compost on beds
  3. Creating beds around the fruit tree corridor
  4. Putting up rabbit fencing around the Center beds
  5. Trimming bushes and outer hedges
  6. Refreshing cedar paths

Setting up the basement nursery has been a matter of reorganizing where shelves are and setting up some new ones to create more space for my overwintered peppers and soon to be seed starting trays.  I figure I should invest in about twelve new lights to maximize my growing space.  I purchased some basic LED 4ft strips off of Amazon last year and liked the results, so I’ll do the same.

I brought the peppers in about a month ago and sure enough they were attacked by aphids and I think some sort of small fly.  I retaliated with an organic spray that included neem and a soap.  It didn’t smell too foul but wasn’t pleasant either.  What I didn’t account for was how spraying every plant, about 20 or so in the basement, would stink up the whole house.  The home’s ventilation is sucking up the odors from the basement and spreading through the air vents.  It’s winter and the heat is blowing the smell everywhere!  Well after a week or so, it’s mostly dissipated.  

So the Basement Nursery is set for now.  It will be another few weeks with just the peppers and then we’ll get rolling with seeds in a few weeks.

One of the projects we do this time of year is putting compost on the garden beds.  There are several reasons for this not only is it a way of putting the beds down for winter, it's also a way to have a regular cadence for replenishing the beds. It's also a way to make sure that the compost is ready for the next Spring garden season.  

We're starting out with some of our homegrown compost which is ready and isn't going to burn seedlings in the spring.  Our home-grown compost isn’t usually enough for all of our beds so we would normally get compost from local suppliers.  The purchased compost is often hot, unfinished and so it's good to get it this time of year because whether I just leave it in the pile or I spread it on the beds now it's not going to really hurt anything.  It has time to finish before the spring season when we put  in new plant starts.

I’ve been putting compost down here at PDX Garden home for several years now.  Last year I put so much down on the veggie beds, what I call the Main section,  they don’t look like they can hold much more.   On a few beds I might not put any additional compost down and instead just use an organic fertilizer for the season.  For those that will get compost, It will be  just  ¼ to ½ inches and it’s possible with the massive amount of home made compost I have this year, that’s all I need!  It’s been a couple years in the making, so I don’t anticipate I’ll be able to do that again next fall.  I’ll likely be back to purchasing at least of my compost needs.

A project that I haven’t started yet is creating beds around the fruit tree corridor.  Several years ago, when starting the garden at PDX Garden home I planted fruit trees in parallel lines, espalier style, making a walkway down the center of the North Garden.  I attempted to pave the pathway down the center with cedar chips and along the outsides, strips of green lawn.  But that resulted in grass and weeds surrounding the trees.  Aside from wanting to get the grass and weeds away from the trunk of the trees so they can breathe a bit, I also have this vision for growing vining squashes and other annuals that can use the fruit trees frame for growing vertically.

So the plan is to create beds that span the length of the fruit tree corridor about twenty feet or so and about two feet wide in parallel lines.  I have to dig out the grass and weeds and then replace with compost.  Then I’ll redo the cedar path down the middle.  Stay tuned for my progress on this project!

As I look around the Central beds I’m seeing where the rabbits have continued to ravage the small plants.  It’s been a couple of months since I’ve seen them out.  I think in the cold, they must be hunkering down and coming out less, but still coming out and chomping my veggies nonetheless.   So a rabbit fence around the central beds is a top priority for building this Winter.  This is another project not started yet.

Now one of the items on my list, people will correctly say, is the wrong time or year and potentially risky, is trimming back hedges and bushes.  The ideal time for that is the late Winter, which for us would be like mid February through March.  But like I said earlier, that’s not the ideal time for me!  I need to be done with infrastructure work by the end of January so I can enjoy focusing on propagation.  I’ll start with the evergreens, non fruiting or flowering hedges.  That should be the least likely to cause damage with a mid Winter pruning.  

Finally, I started refreshing the garden paths earlier at the beginning of Fall to combat the saturated muddy grounds.  I use cedar chips because they smell wonderful and suppress growth where they are laid.  Our paths are usually one inch or so, but in the wet spots we put at least a couple of inches, in some places more.  We did about ½ the paths in the North Garden before running out of the 1 unit of cedar chips I purchased.  We accomplished the mission of shoring up the wettest muddiest paths so they can be traversed during the rest of our typical wet Portland Winter.  This is the last infrastructure I hope to complete before the end of January, refreshing the rest of the paths with another load of cedar chips.