Five October Tasks To Prepare Your Pacific Northwest Garden For Winter

October garden tasks

October is an important month in the garden. Now’s the time to buckle down and finish prepping for winter and spring. The work you do now will pay dividends and ensure you can stay cozy inside with the knowledge your garden is tucked in as well. Here are five key pieces of prepping your garden:

Protect against intruders and disease 

Winter brings other dangers to the garden besides bad weather. Putting the garden to bed means making sure your plants are protected against other natural threats as well.

Keeping things clean and tidy goes a long way on this front. Remove unneeded organic material from the garden before it begins to decay. Pull dead or declining annuals and harvest anything above ground. Clean up any fruit that’s fallen under trees. You don’t want any uninvited animal visitors showing up! Clear overgrown areas and brush piles to dissuade both them and weeds from taking a hold.

Make sure to shield tasty plants from hungry animals like raccoons and deer. You can put up fencing around shrubs that you really want to protect.

Cut back perennials

Trim perennials now. Cut them to ground level after their tops turn brown. But make sure to leave alone evergreen perennials that can survive the winters, like Pacific Coast Iris and others. If you haven’t already pruned woody plants, trees and shrubs, hold off until they’re dormant. Leave plants up until new growth starts and then remove old leaves and stems.

Put away tender bulbs

For tender bulbs like dahlias, dig the bulbs, dry them in the sun for a few days, and then pack them away in sawdust or peat moss. Also take in houseplants that have been enjoying the weather outside.


Planting now serves two purposes: you can lay the groundwork for strong spring growth and also protect your soil.

Some good bulbs to plant for spring color are bluebells, crocuses and tulips. They come back year after year, although hybrid tulips may only last a few seasons. You can plant them until the ground freezes or rains begin. Edibles that come in during the spring like spinach and mache will thank you if you sow them now. Planting ground covers now will give them time to put out roots and lead to a burst of growth in the spring.

Cover crops called “green manure” can help protect your beds through the winter from weeds and also enrich the soil. If you’re interested in adding some, give us a call at 206-551-9872.

Prepare for spring

You’re finishing up the growth season, but one last round of weeding, especially of perennial weeds that are unphased by winter, will pay off come spring.

Tag plants you’ll want to divide so you remember in the spring. Labeling them while in bloom is easiest.

Don’t be afraid to put down organic compost on planting beds you’ll want in the early spring. Freezing and thawing over the winter will work the nutrients into the soil for you. 

While you might want to put in “green manure,” it’s probably best to ease up on traditional fertilizers. You don’t want new growth to be damaged by dips in temperature. House plants slow down with the shorter days so also take it easy on watering and feeding them.

Don’t forget to clean and put away your tools too!