Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Protect Young Trees
Trunks of fall-planted trees need protection from the winter sun. Here's what happens: The winter sun is low in the sky. On clear windless days, the sun warms the trunk of a young tree, causing it to heat up only along the side facing the sun. The rest of the trunk stays cool. The temperature difference causes the bark to split and die. To prevent that, wrap the trunk with cardboard, tree wrap, or cloth strips.
Voracious snails and slugs are coming out in force now with the rainy weather. Protect new seedlings from hungry snails by surrounding planting beds with copper foil. The copper gives them a shock, and they move on to other feeding grounds. Individual plants can be protected by surrounding them with fireplace ash or diatomaceous earth.
Now is the time to groom and prune hydrangeas. Remove all but the previous season's growth, which can be identified by its shiny, fawn-colored bark. Flowers form on this year-old wood. Prune plants to 24-36 inches from the ground. Leave 5 to 7 healthy branches arranged in a vase shape. To get blue flowers, fertilize around the base of the plants with aluminum sulphate to lower the pH.
Avoid Wet Soils
Avoid walking on wet soil if possible to prevent compaction. Roots push easily through loose soil but struggle to grow in soil that is compacted. If you must walk on your planting beds, place temporary plywood walkways or stepping stones in those areas.
Peas are a cool-season crop, best planted when the soil is still cool to the touch but workable. Presoak seeds overnight in damp paper towels for best germination. Plant in deep, loose soil that has been amended with organic compost. Provide support for the vines of tall varieties with a trellis or wire pea cage.