If the busy holiday season keeps you away from your garden in December, don’t worry. As plant growth slows, flower and vegetable gardens need minimal care during winter. Still, for those who can’t stay away from their yards, there is still lots to do in the garden in December, say experts at Agromin, an Oxnard-based manufacturer of earth-friendly soil products made from organic material collected from more than 50 California cities, including those in Santa Barbara County.
» Keep harvesting vegetables: Tomato, radish, pepper and other vegetable plants could still be producing. Keep harvesting vegetables. For year-round production, plant new vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, peas, potatoes and radishes.
» Gain the upper hand on weeds: Rain is not only beneficial for gardens and lawns, but it is just what weeds need to reappear seemingly out of nowhere. Keep weeds under control during winter by turning over soil after each period of rain and cover with a layer of mulch. An inch or two of mulch will prevent weeds from sprouting in winter as it does during warmer months.
» Prune grape vines: By now, just about all the leaves have mostly fallen from grape vines. Prune back the vines and use the trimmings to make holiday wreaths and baskets.
» Clean up leaves: Fallen leaves can leave a mess on sidewalks and lawns. Rake up the leaves and spread them around flowerbeds. They will keep mud from splashing on plants during rain.
» Buy a living Christmas tree: Purchasing a living Christmas tree and replanting the tree in the yard may seem like a good idea when the tree is small, but pine trees can easily grow up to 40 feet or higher in a relatively short time. Take care in deciding on the location to plant the tree — keeping in mind such issues as shade, proximity to sidewalks, root growth and needle droppings.
The best tree types for our area include Afghan pine, aleppo pine, coast redwood, deodar cedar, giant sequoia, Korean fir and white fir. Once a living tree is purchased, wait until a week before Christmas to bring the tree indoors, where it can stay for one to two weeks. Any longer and it will begin to drop its needles.
» Plant California natives: Now is the perfect time to include California native plants in your landscape. Shrubs, groundcover and perennials that do particularly well are sage, Manzanita, ceanothus, California buckwheat, snapdragon and a variety of grasses. It’s growing season for these plants. Check with your local nursery or the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society for more plant options.
» Move container plants: To keep container flowers looking their best even in cold and windy weather, move containers next to south- or west-facing walls so plants will absorb reflected daytime heat and stay shielded from wind. Move cacti, succulents and potted trees under cover for protection from cold and rain.
— Diane Rumbaugh is a publicist representing Agromin.