Take December off gardening, or don’t

Gardening isn’t necessarily high on your December to-do list, but if gardening is your passion, there’s still plenty to keep you busy.

Turn leaves and branches into mulch: Fallen leaves and branches do a lot of good. Cover a pile of material with a tarp to keep it warm and prevent rain from washing away nutrients. Turn the material regularly. Place some of the fallen leaves in flower beds to prevent mud from splashing onto small plants during rain.

Protect containerized plants: Move containerized plants along walls facing south or west. They will absorb reflected daytime heat and remain protected from most of the wind. Move potted cacti and succulents under a patio cover so they are protected from the cold and rain.

Moisten soil and ground cover to prevent frost damage: If you hear a frost warning in your area, water your garden soil well before night. Clear hours at night are when frost is most likely to occur. Moisture from the soil will evaporate and warm the air around your plants preventing roots and plants from freezing. The mulch will also keep the soil and roots warmer than the air temperature.

Control weeds – It’s amazing how quickly weeds appear after rain. They are easier to remove when they are small and the soil is moist. Once removed, add a layer of mulch to suppress any new growth.

Planting Bare Root Trees, Shrubs, and Roses: Make sure tree roots are moist before planting. Dig a hole at least twice as big as the root ball and deep enough for it to stand on its own. Cover with loose soil. Create a small ridge of soil around the trunk so water doesn’t run off. Add mulch (without touching the trunk) to keep the roots warm during the winter. Slowly water the tree after planting so the water penetrates deep into the root system. Continue watering deeply and regularly into spring (even after light rains).

Harvest and plant cool-season vegetables: Vegetable plants added in October should be producing in December. You can still plant cool-season vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kale, mustard, and lettuce. Beets, carrots and radishes can also be planted in December.

Add California Natives: Plant native vegetation now so it will establish itself in the spring. Your local nursery should have varieties that do well in your area. According to the California Native Plant Society, there are more than 7,000 native plants in California. Go to their site to see which plants are native to your specific region, https://calscape.org.

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