Clean and sharpen tools. Clean garden tools of soil with a stiff wire brush.  Use sandpaper to remove any rust. Sharpen hoes, shovels, and pruners with a hand file. After cleaning and sharpening your tools give the metal surfaces a light protective coating of a clean lightweight motor oil or WD-40. Coat the wood handles of tools with linseed oil after lightly sand any splitters.  Store tools in a dry location.

Perform a soil test.  With a clean garden trowel dig about 15 small holes, 8” deep in a random pattern throughout your garden plot.  From the side of each hole take a thin slice of soil and place the soil into a clean bucket.  Mix all the samples together and place around 2 cups of soil in a plastic zipper bag.   Here are some great OSU resources to guide you in collecting your sample, to laboratories that perform soil tests, and to how to interpret soil test results.

Add lime.  Fall is a great time to add lime to your garden plot – but it is still not too late to add lime to your garden in January.  Use the results of your soil test to know the right amount to add.  If you are not testing your soil a general rule is to apply 5 to 10 pounds of lime per 100 square feet.  Cover your soil with garden mulch or burlap after liming.

Winterize your garden.  Did you plant a cover crop or mulch your plot in the fall?  Don’t despair if you didn’t plant a cover crop. You can still protect your soil from the beating rains that leach away soil nutrients by covering your garden with mulch material like burlap coffee sacks, straw, cardboard or other organic material.  If nature has already covered your veggie plot with a layer of winter weeds you can actually leave them to serve as a cover crop.  Just be sure to pull them in the spring before they go to seed.

Plan next year’s garden by prioritizing veggies.  If you are growing a vegetable garden, prioritize veggies. Take time to evaluate what veggies you enjoyed eating last summer.  What veggies did your family gobble up? Were you short on garden peas last year? Which veggies taste best homegrown?  Did the flavor of your home-grown green beans far surpass those you bought at the store? Which vegetables that you love are expensive when purchased? Eggplant and tomatoes! Will you save money by growing your own?  Which vegetables give good yield for the amount of space they need to grow?  For example, corn fresh from the garden is delicious, but it is also a space hog.  Can you harvest many more pounds of tomatoes in the same square footage? Remember to include crop rotation in your planning. You don't want pests or diseases to become a problem because you didn't move your crops to a new location.

Dream and make a list.  Once your garden is winterized it is time to curl up by a fire and dream about next years garden.

  • Check out OSU’s recommended vegetable varieties for our region.
  • Peruse seed catalogs to decide which vegetables you would like to plant by seed.
  • Determine when you should sow your seeds for optimal transplanting
  • Plan which vegetables you would like to purchase as seedlings.
  • Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 2nd for the Incredible Edibles Plant Sale.
  • Check out the Incredible Edibles Plant Sale shopping list.  The availability list for our annual Incredible Edibles Plant Sale will not be available until February, but until then look at last years list which will be very close to the offerings in 2015. 

Grab pencil and paper, and begin sketching.  Nothing fancy needed here.  Roughly draw your garden patch with the garden’s basic measurements.  Learn the space requirements for the vegetables or ornamental plants you are planning to grow.  Place tall plants on the north end of your plot so as to not shade other crops. Plant low growing plants like lettuce, radishes and onions on the south end of the garden.  Place medium sized crops in the middle of your plot.  Plant perennial herbs on the outside edges of your garden which will allow you to leave them undisturbed when preparing the soil for annual crops. If your garden is primarily ornamentals, evaluate which plants performed well and which might need to be relocated or (gasp!) chucked. Now is the time to plan for those little tweaks that will make your garden thrive.  For great guides in planning a vegetable garden check out the following OSU Extension publications:

Be patient!  Plot your course and set-up a timeline for the seeds you want to start indoors. Don’t be lured by the first sunny day in February to start planting your veggie plot.  The soil is generally too wet and too cold to adequately support the germination of seeds or growth of seedlings, so be patient.  Check soil moisture levels by grabbing a fistful of soil and squeezing it.  If water runs down your hand the soil is too wet to work.  The soil should break apart with the nudge of your finger.  Get a soil thermometer and take the temperature of your soil. Some seeds like lettuce and peas will germinate at soil temperatures as low as 40°F, but many cool season veggies like beets, chard and spinach need a consistent 50°F. Others like brassicas, carrots, onions and more need the soil temperature to be at least 55°F.  For warm season crops like beans tomatoes, peppers and squashes wait until the soil temps are a steady 60-65°. Read seed packet recommendations carefully or see the recommended planting date guide below.  Happy garden dreaming!

Here are all the links, all in one place:

OSU Guide to Collecting Soil Samples for Farms and Gardens 

Laboratories Serving Oregon for Soil, Water, Plant Tissue and Feed Analysis

Soil Test Interpretation Guide

Growing Your Own

Vegetable Gardening in Oregon

Recommended vegetable varieties

Container vegetable gardens for small spaces

Vertical gardening for small spaces

Recommended planting date guide

Incredible Edibles Plant Sale