Can You Landscape In Winter?

by Ben Bowen

Can landscaping be done in the winter?

Portland, OR winters are fairly mild. December, our coldest month, still has an average high of 48 degrees. Snow and ice are fairly uncommon and short lived.

So yes, your landscaping can be done in the winter.  

Should I landscape in the winter? 

If you decide to tackle a yard renovation December - March, there are a few disadvantages, but also some potential advantages.

Winter Landscaping Cons: 

  • The project will move more slowly. The days are shorter and wetter, so the job will take a little longer.
  • Slopes are tricky. If your landscape involves a steep slope, parts of it may not be possible to tackle. 
  • Coffee cups. There will be more coffee cups on site, as the crew tries to stay warm. Ross NW Watergardens has very high coffee standards, preferring Extracto or Coava- so at least it won't be cheap coffee cups.

Gardens Completed in Winter:

Winter Landscaping Pros: 

  • You will get our full attention. During the summer we may be divided between 2-4 projects at one time. In the winter it's 1-2. 
  • Your project will be ready for spring. Enjoy every possible minute of your new paver patio, water feature, or outdoor kitchen. 
  • Entertainment. You don't have anything to do on those gray winter days anyways. At least you can sit by the fire, drink your Stumptown, and watch us work in the mud. 

Winter Landscaping Projects

Ross NW Watergardens has completed extensive landscape renovations during the winter. These included water features, patios, retaining walls, irrigation systems, new plants, and more. Contemporary or modern landscapes often utilize large amounts of hardscape, making them great winter projects.

The key to successful winter projects is knowing what to do and when to do it. We do not do anything with mortar if there is going to be a freeze within 24 hrs. We don't plant if the high is under 35 degrees. We leave extra time for cleanup at the end of each day.


And if there is ice or snow on the roads? We just hit the pause button for a day or two. 

Don't let winter get in the way of your project. Contact us and we can discuss your project and when it can best be done.

Can I Plant In The Winter?

Will it be too cold to plant? I get this question all the time as I fill up our winter schedule. And it's understandable.

If you are going to invest in a bunch of new plants you want to be sure they are getting off to a good start. If that means waiting for spring, so be it. You want to plant at the best time. Right?

The good news- for you, your plants, and for me- is that our Portland winters pose little danger to your new Fastiagate Mugo Pine or Manzanita. Here's why:

  • Our winters are just not that cold.
  • Many plants go dormant in the winter. This makes them less susceptible to damage or shock while planting. Planting or transplanting in the winter is like moving your sleeping kid from the car to their bed- potentially easier than the regular routine!

When Is It Too Cold To Plant?

I can't give you an exact temperature, but I can tell you when we won't plant. If the ground is frozen, or will shortly be frozen, to a depth of 6" or more we wait for the temperature to rise. Every couple of years we get a string of 4-5 days with lows in the teens and highs below freezing. Don't plant then. 

If it's just our regular wet and cold-ish winter weather? Plant away. Consider adding a little extra compost or mulch to insulate the root ball. Then go drink some hot chocolate.

Benefits Of Winter Planting

Are there perks to winter planting? There can be. As I mentioned above, dormant plants are protected from shock. And as the weather warms late in February your plants will already be in place and getting established. That's a protection against the heat of summer (the real threat to your plants!)

So, put on your Muck boots, gloves, and jacket. Take the Subaru to your local nursery for some discounted plants. Plant away and enjoy them as they wake in the spring!

This is about the only weather we don't do landscaping in: