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Winter gardening tips + tasks for Portland, OR

It may be the dormant season for most growing things, but it’s the perfect time to plan ahead — spring will be here before you know it.

A gardener pulls a plant out of the dirt

Swiss chard will happily grow through a PDX winter. | Photo by @unsplash

Table of Contents

Our climate is the cream of the crop when it comes to gardening because it’s mild enough to allow growth nearly every month of the year. That means there are plenty of tasks to keep a gardener busy even in winter.

What’s growing?

Winter in the Pacific Northwest is the time for cool-season crops to take center stage. Vegetables like beets, kale, and Swiss chard are planted in summer and harvested throughout the winter, while some fall-planted crops like carrots and onions will grow slowly through winter and be ready in early spring. Check out these veggie planting calendars for Portland.

Some flowering plants also shine during the colder months — like hellebores, which will bloom even when snow blankets the ground.

If you want to grow something now, try sprouting some microgreens. Or prep your seed trays. Clean and organize your trays, then sow seeds indoors with a growing light — the plants can be moved outdoors when the time is right.

Plan for spring

This is the time of year to collect seeds that you will either start indoors or plant outside once the ground warms up. Find your growing “zone” and choose seeds accordingly. Native plants are a great way to support the natural ecosystem.

Check out these local spots to nab your favorites:

Five-petaled pink blooms with yellow centers lean over stalks of dark green foliage inside a greenhouse.

Hellebores come in many colors and will bloom in the dead of winter, year after year.

Grow your knowledge

Winter is a good time to get to those projects you didn’t have time for during summer, like building better tomato cages, sharpening your chainsaw blades, or taking a class. The OSU Extension office has free online guides covering everything from beekeeping to tree pruning.

Here’s your checklist for routine maintenance you can do in the winter:

  • Trim and tidy — Toss out any plants that didn’t survive last year and start fresh.
  • Take care of your tools — Sharpen your pruners and clean your trowels or treat yourself to a new tool set.
  • Test your soil — Apply your compost, but don’t forget to test your soil to make sure you aren’t missing any nutrients. A soil test kit can help you out here.
  • Prepare for frost — Be prepared for any cold fronts by making sure your watering system is ready for any deep freezes and stocking up on row covers.
  • Plan your beds — Get out your graph paper and dream up your ideal garden.
  • Join a local gardening group — Learn about organic and permaculture practices while growing nutritious food at the Albina Cooperative Garden, or find out how to get a community garden plot.

Whether you already have two very green thumbs or you’re thinking about dipping your toes into the soil for the first time, this winter gardening guide for Portlanders is meant to be helpful, simple, and most of all, fun.

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