Note: Whiile I am late posting this to the web, I did respond to Rebekah via email back in October! However my answer is equally applicable now (in December)...

October 23 - Rebekah H writes:

"I came upon your site today as I was looking for stuff on winter gardening. I'm down in Portland and I've had a great, if not terribly diverse, summer garden and I haven't planted anything for winter because, well, all of my plants are still bearing fruit, so I haven't moved them. 

I don't know if you spend a lot of time in Portland, but last winter it didn't hard freeze at all (and I'm from the midwest, so that was weird). It doesn't get very cold at all and there isn't really ice.

My setup is that I have probably 40 sf of very raised beds (about 2 feet off the ground). 

I don't need to do a whole huge amount of things, and probably lettuce/greens won't work because of the intense rain, but I'd really like to do carrots, potatoes, turnips, garlic, onions... that sort of thing.

Are we too late to get started?

By this time of year the light levels are so low, you're not going to be successful starting most stuff outside. The exception would be plants like garlic, since they can use the stored energy inside their cloves to get established.

If you have a cool spot where you can set up a growlight, you could start leafy stuff inside with the intent of putting it out in mid-winter (once the danger of really cold weather is past). I'd probably wait until December to do that, though, unless you've got a lot of room inside. Also, note when I say "cool" I'm talking about unheated space like an enclosed porch, where temps can be allowed to drop down into the 40s (or maybe even lower). You want the seedlings to be used to temperatures somewhat similar to what they'll experience outside.

Unfortunately root crops like carrots and turnips don't lend themselves to transplanting very well - so with those you're going to have to wait until spring (or at least late winter).

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This page was last updated November 18, 2013