Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

December, 2008
Regional Report

Water Plants Under Eaves

Plants that are growing under eaves or overhangs will require water throughout the winter months. Your neighbors will think you are crazy to be out with a hose. Shorter days mean that plants don't require as much water, but they still need moisture.

Frost Watch

It's that time of year for freezing nights and frozen plants. Tender plants such as cymbidiums, succulents and cactus should be brought under cover or placed against a south facing wall. Water your garden well prior to a predicted frost. Plump cells full of water freeze more slowly than thin, depleted cells. Cover citrus with burlap if temperatures drop below freezing. Watch for wind-free, clear days which predict very cold nights to follow.

Sharpen Cutting Tools

Get ready for dormant season pruning by cleaning and sharpening your cutting tools. Clippers can be dismantled and blades can be sharpened with a knife sharpener or, you can use a metal file. Keep the file or sharpener at the same angle as the original cutting bevel on the blade. A finishing touch of 3-in-1 oil will lubricate and protect metal surfaces.

Cut Back Flowering Perennials

Perennial plants such as achellea, alstromeria, anenome, astilbe and centaurea can be cut back to the ground now. Cover the roots with a fresh layer of organic compost to enrich the soil and nourish the roots. You can determine perennial plants that should be cut back by the condition of the foliage. If it looks brown and withered, it should be cut. Evergreen perennials such as heuchera should be allowed to hold their foliage for the winter.

Care for Living Christmas Trees

Evergreen trees that are brought into the house and decorated for the holidays need some special care. These plants are coming from a cool, moist environment to a hot, dry one. The best way to increase humidity without burning out strings of lights is to create a humidity tray. Place gravel in the saucer to catch water and allow it to evaporate back up through the branches. It's very important that you not allow the tree to dry between waterings. Sunset Magazine recommends putting one tray of ice cubes on the surface of the soil each morning. It keeps the tree moist and cool. Tree placement is important too. Keep the tree away from heater vents, opening doors and sunny windows. Imediately after the holiday, take the tree back outside and water thoroughly.

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