Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Clever Gardening Technique
Lazy Man's Mulch
If you have a cutting garden or a vegetable garden that you won't be using over the winter, here's a tip that will improve the soil and prevent weeds from growing. Simply chop up the existing plant material that is in the bed now and leave it on the surface of the soil. Add a layer of potting soil to cover, and by spring you will have gorgeous, friable soil ready for planting. The key is to chop the plant material into small, 1- to 2-inch pieces, so it will break down easily over the winter months
Favorite or New Plant
Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is a winter-blooming evergreen shrub with a haunting fragrance that will welcome guests to your home when planted near an entryway. Unlike the fragrance of daphne or hyacinth, which can be overpowering, osmanthus has a sweet scent that seems to linger on the cold winter air. Osmanthus is not fussy in its growing requirements, and the flowers are not especially showy. However, if you plant one of these hardy shrubs (hardy to USDA zone 8), you will be rewarded with years of trouble-free maintenance. Osmanthus will adapt to most garden soils. It prefers partial shade and very little water once established, and it can be trained into small trees, hedges, or espaliers. It also makes an excellent container plant.