What is the quintessential sign of spring's arrival in the Pacific Northwest? Is it daffodils blooming? Your raspberries beginning to leaf out? Peonies bursting up through the soil? We are so fortunate to have such short winters here in Western Oregon, but for gardeners, a short winter means there is only a short break in our gardening season. By the end of January, we're already creating a to-do lists and obsessively checking the weather report in hopes of a dry day.
Whether you are a first-time homeowner or a seasoned gardener, it's always nice to have a list of late winter tasks. All of this goes for us at the nursery, too - we have lots of work to do to prepare for our upcoming busy season, which will be here before we know it! What follows is a short list of important tasks that are best completed before spring's arrival. We hope you will find it helpful.
- Make plans for early spring planting: Planting trees and perennials early in the year will reduce the need for watering and allow the plants to become more established before summer. From this week on we'll have new plants arriving at the nursery each week, so come in and get inspired!
- Pruning and shaping: Now is a great time to prune fruit trees as well as late summer and fall flowering shrubs and trees such as hydrangeas, roses, and crape myrtles. We also recommend shaping boxwoods in late winter to ensure lush and even new growth in spring.
- Cut back grasses and other perennials: Use sharp, clean shears or pruners to remove old material and make way for new spring growth.
- Eliminate weeds early: Dandelions and bittercress are off to a particularly early start this year courtesy of our mild winter, and they are infinitely easier to remove when the soil is still moist and soft. Not sure how to treat your particular intruder? Portland Environmental Services has created this handy guide for identifying and eradicating weeds specific to our area.
- Prepare for slugs & snails: Our favorite low-toxin solution is a beer trap. Simply fill a clean tuna can with beer and nestle it down in the garden near your affected plants, replenishing at least once a week or after heavy rain. If your problem is more widespread, try an iron phosphate slug bait, such as Sluggo, which is less toxic than metaldehyde-containing products, but proven to be similarly effective.
- Deal with moss (once and for all!): Mossy areas in your lawn are treatable, but moss will always return if an area is shaded and damp. If you have a problem area in your lawn, consider transitioning the area to an ornamental shade bed. When choosing plants, keep year-round interest in mind. Do you have something that blooms in winter? Will you have a punch of glorious fall color? Some of our favorite shade plants for our climate include Japanese Maple, Witch Hazel, Mahonia, Boxwood, Fatsia, Ribes, Epimedium, and Hellebore.
Interested in a professional consultation for your yard? Information is available on our Garden Design & Services page. We look forward to seeing you at the nursery, where we are always happy to answer your gardening questions in person.