Winter Check List
by Frank Niccoli
Winter and its storms will be here soon, and it is time to batten down the hatches in your garden. Check out the large trees in and about your property for weak or damaged branches. Look at your tree as if you were the wind trying to blow through it at 50 miles per hour. If the tree is crowded with leaves, and branches the tree will act as a sails when the wind hits it. Unfortunately, trees do not flex in the same way that sails flex and the wind will blow the canopy apart. If the tree is next to a structure it can cause some major damage. If you think you need, call a California certified arborist to check the trees for you.
Another detail to put on your winter checklist is take inside the tender plants in pots that have been living on your patio all summer. Along with this think about protecting some of your frost-sensitive plants such as marguerites, geraniums, and lantana. When is the first frost in this area?
Watch the watering on all of your plants. Just because it is raining does not mean that the plants under your eaves are receiving enough water. Camellias rhododendrons, and azaleas need winter watering and feeding. Do not feed them with a high nitrogen fertilizer during the winter. Fed them monthly with a good 0-10-10 fertilizer so that they will set strong buds for bloom in the spring. Don’t forget your citrus trees.
Bulbs should be planted now that the cooler weather has arrived. Think about putting a cover crop of annuals on top until the bulbs pop up. Violas. pansies, and primrose work quite well. This is also true for container plantings. For small clay pots put in a handful of freesias. You can’t beat the fragrance, and freesia will grow indoors. As a cover crop put in some pansies. For larger containers place a handful of tulips or daffodils and use primrose as a top cover. For a more unusual bulb try some ornithogulum. Very pretty and fragrant also. An unusual top cover for planter beds or containers is ornamental kale. Watch for snails.
For the vegetable gardeners it is time to set out broccoli, cabbage, parsley, beets, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and turnips. It is also a good time to plant garlic, shallots, and onions.
This is also a great time to plant wildflower seeds. The winter rains will help push them into the soil and the winter rains will keep the seeds moist until the spring sun germinates them. If the seeds are very small mix them with some sand. This will make them easier to spread.
Bargain hunt for wildflower seed. The prices are all over the board. Look for plant seed that will germinate year after year. Examples are, alyssum, lobelia yarrow, coreopsis, johny-jump-up, salvia, nasturtium, poppy, lupine, clarkia, wallflower, marigolds, penstemon, phlox, flax, and gazania.
Your lawns do need to be fertilized during the winter. I use a very hot 34-0-0 blend in the winter. I say hot because if you forget to water this fertilizer into the lawn you will fry your lawn. Believe me, when i was a novice gardener I learned this lesson the hard way.
- Plant perennials. They will establish much easier in the cool weather.
- Renovate and reseed lawns.
- Remove the spring and summer annuals and replace them with primroses, pansies, violas, calendulas, and paladosum daisies.
- give your lawns and shrubs a good fertilization before the winter cold sets in.
- Clean up garden debris around Camellias and Azaleas so that insects will not overwinter in the debris.
- Take some time to plan how many and what variety of bulbs you will need. Start shopping around for the best prices.
- Check your large trees for dangerous limbs that might fall during the winter storms. Call a good tree service if you need help. The Village Gardener knows several good, honest arborists.
- Check stakes and ties on newly-planted trees.
- Pull out the gardening catalogs and start ordering seed for the spring garden.
- Move the frost tender plants on your patio to a sheltered location.