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Add Winter Interest and Support Wildlife

A number of winter-flowering shrubs thrive in the Pacific Northwest. These plants help sustain birds and other pollinators over the winter with the added benefit of flowers in your garden, often with an accompanying pleasant fragrance. WSU extension provides a helpful list in Puget Sound Gardening Tip Sheet #10.


At the end of the season let seed heads develop on your annual and perennial flowering plants such as Echinacea and sunflowers. They provide a banquet for several bird species! Your garden can also provide food and shelter to other wildlife. “Landscaping for Wildlife” by Hilary Foss, a Kittitas County Master Gardener, provides tips for creating wildlife habitat in your yard including food, water, shelter, and space.

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Photo used with permission.

Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, provides blooms and fragrance in your garden during the darkest months of winter.


It is also important to provide habitat for overwintering beneficial insects such as ground beetles, centipedes, millipedes, and spiders. Native plants are a good choice to provide both shelter and food since they attract our native insects. You may already have some of these native plants like salal, Oregon grape and vine maples growing in your garden.


Other sources of food and shelter are dried grass clippings and leaf litter. Surprisingly, one of the best and easiest ways to protect these important contributors to your garden ecosystem is to leave a portion of your property in a more natural state. So be sure to not clean up too much!

Continue Mulching

Less hardy plants, such as some perennials and roses, will benefit from an insulating blanket of plant material over the winter. Pine needles, straw, fir boughs, shredded leaves, and the like are excellent ways to protect cold-sensitive plants. November is the perfect time for this task.

Clean Up Fruit Trees and Shrubs

Sanitation is the first step in controlling disease in your garden. Remove any fruit mummies remaining on your fruit trees and shrubs so they don't become warehouses for plant disease. Rake fallen leaves and mulch them if you don't have a disease problem. If you have noticed disease, bag and dispose of fallen fruit and leaves. Pull back mulch 4-5" from fruit trees and shrubs so that rodents don't have hiding places to nibble on the trunks.


Read more details in Orchard Floor Management.

Clean Gardening Tools

Although it is best to clean tools regularly, November is an excellent time to clean and sharpen your garden tools to get them ready for spring. Preparing them in fall will prevent rusting and corrosion over the winter.


Cleaning will help prevent the spread of disease and sharpening will protect tender plants from damage. A light coat of oil will help prevent rust. After cleaning, store tools in a dry place off the floor.

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Photo used with permission

Cleaning these tools before putting them away will make your life easier when spring comes.

Authored by Cathy Lofton-Day, Island County Master Gardener
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