In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
December, 2013
Regional Report

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Golden grapefruits dangle like holiday decorations on their trees.

Tips for Winter Gardening

We are so fortunate in our climate that we can garden year round! Pansies, snapdragons, primroses, stock, calendula, and ornamental kale add color to the winter garden, while sweet olive and daphne entice us with their heady fragrance. Citrus are ripe and ready for harvest. Here are some tips to help you make your cool-season gardens a success.

  • Keep the compost pile going. It is going to decompose much more slowly than when the weather is warm, but it will continue working if you continue turning it over. Toss your garden and kitchen bits onto the pile and keep turning, turning, turning. Your hard work will be rewarded come spring, and turning the pile will keep you warm -- at least temporarily.

  • Pansies love cultivation. Use a pronged cultivator and keep the soil around them fluffy. For some reason, the oxygen around the roots stimulates flower production.

  • Snails love lettuce and peas. Copper tape, fireplace ashes, broken eggshells or a combination of all three should be spread around the vegetable patch. Snails are sneaky, and if there is a branch to bridge the way, they will find it.

  • Plant nemesia for its clouds of colorful, lobelia-like blooms. Plant it in hanging pots, under roses that are dormant, as borders, or around the edges of large containers to drape over the sides. Nemesia will only last until the weather gets hot again, so enjoy it while you can. Nothing else gives you as much color in the winter.

  • Fertilize annuals every two weeks with half-strength, balanced fertilizer. Something like 22-14-14 is perfect.

  • Keep burlap or old bed sheets handy to cover the bougainvillea and citrus in case we get a hard freeze. It's always best to use some sort of frame to hold the covering above the plant to prevent damage to the foliage, but any kind of covering is better than none at all. If a freeze is predicted, water the garden well. Turgid plant cells are less susceptible to frost damage than those that are stressed from lack of water. And whatever you do, don't prune frost-damaged plants until March or April.

  • Don't walk on wet soil to prevent compacting it. If you must walk across garden beds, use sheets of plywood or strips of lumber to distribute the load.

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