When does winter really start? Is it a date? Is it a temperature? Is it whenever you are "stuck" inside? My answer is that it's different for different folks.
When our nighttime temperature first got down to below zero, I said "Winter is officially here." But that was one night. We then had twoo weeks of drop-dead, gorgeous weather. Hmm ... maybe winter wasn't here after all. Then, one day, we had some snow flurries. Wow! Winter was finally here. But it didn't even stick to the ground, much less stay for even a day. Hmm ... maybe winter wasn't here after all. We finally had a 4-to-5-inch snowfall that covered not only the ground, but laid a 5-inch layer of snow onto the top of our heat pump, and 4 inches onto our portable greenhouse. NOW, winter was finally here.
But I was prepared (or so I thought). I had made hoops for one of my raised beds out of PVC pipe and shower curtains. I had gathered what seemed like tons of pine needles to cover my herb garden in a layer about 3-to-4 inches deep. I would have used leaves as mulch, but the leaves weren't falling much at that time. I pushed the pine needle mulch especially high right around the base of the plants. I had researched the plants to see which ones might survive and learned that for some of them, I should cut them down to the ground and pile mulch completely over the top of them.
I was ready for winter! But was it enough?
The apple and cherry trees finally started dropping all their leaves, making a deep mat of leaves on the ground. I did rake some up into a pile, but the pile never made it onto the garden.
We did buy a wood chipper, but before we could use it to make wood chip mulch, it rained. Trying to make chips using soaking wet wood in a brand-new chipper didn't seem to make sense.
I thought about taking cuttings from some of my most cherished herbs, ones that aren't really supposed to be cold-hardy for my 6a Zone. But I had brought them here from my central California residence, and reasoned that they had withstood snow before (albeit only 1 to 2 days of snow). Besides, I've never been particularly successful with cutting propagation.
I had read that garlic would withstand winter, so I planted it in my raised bed that did not get hoops. My hooped raised bed had lettuce, kale, spinach, and snap peas.
So, was it enough? I'm afraid only time will tell. We now have an accumulated 6 to 10 inches of snow (depending on where I look). This is what my raised beds look like now (December 28, 2017):
In this picture, you can see the heat pump looks like it has about 10 inches of snow on top.
Finally, my front herb garden. You can see the tops of the shovel, the top of a rolling cart ... and all those "lumps" in the snow are plants. Yikes. Will they live?