In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
February, 2007
Regional Report

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Landscape fabric in combination with mulch makes garden maintenance a snap. This newly landscaped area is just about ready for planting.

Winter Wrap-Up

The days are getting longer and it won't be long until spring arrives in her full glory. We still have to slog through wet and wild February, but there's work out there to be done before the season starts. I love to visit public gardens in the winter. Although they are not dressed in their finest, I like to see what the gardeners are up to. A visit to Filoli, Gamble Gardens, or Sunset will reveal a hive of activity. A public garden where gardeners are hired to maintain the property will give you an idea of what needs to be done on the home front.

Mulching is something that many gardeners forget about in winter, although it's probably the most important chore of all. Wicked winter weeds, such as poanna, are sprouting like crazy with the longer days and slightly warmer temperatures. You can discourage winter weeds by frequent cultivation, but if they go to seed, which they will do faster than a blink, you are in real trouble. Chickweed is one of my favorite "weeds you love to hate." It seems that no matter how much cultivation you do, chickweed will find a way to sneak into your flower beds.

Mulch for Free
If you eliminate light from the surface of the soil, these winter weeds can't germinate. I think straw mulch looks very tidy, and I love the golden color, but it sometimes comes with its own built-in set of weed seeds. My friend Jean prefers the free mulch that is delivered by her local parks department. A call to your public works department will soon have a truckload of chipper mulch delivered directly to your driveway. If you call just after a winter storm, you are sure to be rewarded with a bounty of fresh, fragrant mulch. Professional tree companies, such as Bartlett Tree Experts, will also deliver wood chips to your home. Just pick up the phone and call around.

In south San Francisco we get mostly pine and eucalyptus chips. The combination of the two woods creates a heavenly scent that lingers in the damp winter air. The color is a mixture of dark green, tan, and brown. The fresh chipper mulch eventually fades to a uniform gray.

Some people don't like the free mulch, saying it may have come from diseased trees. If you are concerned about this, you can compost the mulch until it has "cooked." Think how your garden will love a huge batch of homemade compost! You could rake leaves and mow lawns for the rest of your life and never be able to collect this much material for the compost pile.

My friend Jean likes the free mulch because she uses it on her perennials, which don't seem to be susceptible to those tree blights and diseases. The mulch eventually composts down and Jean's soil is rich in organic matter and light in texture.

Another benefit of moving mountains of mulch: you get some exercise, something we all need during winter.


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