Prepare raspberry bushes, strawberry plants and other crops for winter

I am getting questions about when to prune raspberries — spring or fall? To be clear, this is not the same thing as getting rid of the canes that produced this year. They are finished and should be removed at their bases and either used for mulch — run them over with the mower — around the canes that will produce next year or taken from the garden and composted. You can do this now or early next spring. You can tell the spent canes because some will have the “cores” of this year’s fruit still attached.

As for pruning the canes that will produce next year, you can also do it now or in the spring. I like ours to be about four feet tall. While you can wait on pruning, now is when you want to put leaves between and around plants. Remember, there are no bare soils in nature.

Next, a lot of folks grow strawberries in pots and other containers. Many want to know if it is possible to winter them over. You can and there are two ways. The first is indoors. Bring them in to an unheated garage and let them go dormant. They should green up with a bit of water and warmth in the spring.

Or, you can keep them outdoors with proper insulation. Soil is the best. Simply dig a hole and bury the pot as if the plants were directly in the ground. Pull it up next spring. Leaves will work if you can get and keep 8 to 10 inches around your plants and containers. Some people use bubble wrap for insulation. Just make sure to remove it come early spring.

I will note that more and more people are treating strawberry plants as annuals and just let them go at the end of the season. This seems like a waste. You might as well try mulching and insulating them with leaves and carrying them over.

Now is the time to spray Plantskydd on your lilacs and other moose fodder plants. This is sticky, smelly stuff — actually emulsified blood meal — that makes moose think a wolf has killed something nearby. It is best to paint or spray it on plants now before the really hard frosts. It should last six months if you can find a day to apply it and then not have it rain for 24 hours.

Finally, there wasn’t a killing frost in September, or even a light one for the most part. Clearly, this was one of those years when it made sense to plant second crops in July. Of course, you never know which gardening season will end early due to a frost or will last long enough to pull off succession planting for things like broccoli, kohlrabi and determinate tomatoes and other crops.


The real question is whether we are at a point with climate warming that we should simply plant second crops in July and take our chances? This would seem to make sense now. The trick is to convince local nurseries to provide seedlings to use. Of course, you can always start your own, outdoors, right after you plant the first crops. You won’t need lights so it should be easier than starting things indoors in early spring. I will try to remember to put something in the Garden Calendar to remind you.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:

Alaska BOOtanical Garden: Saturday, Sept. 17 to Monday, Oct. 24 on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Spook yourself out! Cost $8 per person. Members and children 6 and under free. Tickets can purchased upon arrival at admissions.

Outdoor faucets: It is time to disconnect all hoses and make sure outdoor faucets are shut off for the winter.

Staking: Driveways and walks need to be marked to keep traffic and snow where they belong. Do it now before the ground freezes.

Spring bulbs: Plant as many as you can. You will be rewarded come spring!

Mulch: No bare soils, folks. Mulch perennials, trees and shrubs.

Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska gardening and growing

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He’s authored several books on organic gardening, and his latest book, "Teaming With Bacteria," is available on Amazon. Reach him at