I love December because I finally get relief from the sun while I do my garden work. If I’m lucky there is just a soft drizzle of rain to dampen the street traffic. It’s like being in a cocoon.
Not cocoon-like is the malls and shopping centers during this month! So I do a lot of my holiday shopping in high-quality nurseries. Support your local nurseries and buy thoughtful gifts for the gardeners in your life. Always needed is a good pair of gloves or pruners. Nice hand lotion to soothe dry hands or even a lovely indoor plant placed in a hand-made ceramic pot.
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden will be mounting a show of over forty original artworks based on the “native plant discoveries made by John and William Bartram” in the 18th century. Lectures are associated with the show… how about “A Journey with the Bartrams, Hookers and other Famous Families in Western Botanical Science, Art and Exploration.” Who knew!?
In the ornamental garden:
- Spray dormant, deciduous fruit trees, berries and roses with dormant oil spray…this protects plants from insects and their eggs by smothering them. Be sure to clean up any leaves and fruit on plants and soil surface. With roses, I like to prune and remove any leaves first.
- Frost watch If frost is predicted make sure frost-sensitive plants like citrus and Bougainvillea have enough moisture in soil. If plants are not in a protected spot and have suffered frost damage before think about covering with a frost blanket, old sheet, burlap or paper. Or try a string of electric lights – it will look festive and keep the plant warm. Alternatively, there are products in the market like Cloud Cover and Bonide Wilt Stop… protective spray barriers that you can apply to plant.
- Irrigate plants if there hasn’t been any rain or insignificant amounts for two or three weeks. Plants that are dehydrated suffer in cold, dry weather.
- Clean up leaves from surfaces (soil, hardscape and lawn) and remove leaves from the top and inside of plants. As a priority I remove the leaves that are on top and inside plants first and worry about the other leaves when I have time.
- Weed: Pull up weeds before they flower and set seed. Oxalis, pop weed and annual blue grass are debuting daily!
- Mulch: Add 1-2” layer of mulch to suppress growth of more weeds. I usually do this once all the autumn leaves have fallen and been cleaned up.
- Purchase bare-root plants like fruit trees and roses from nurseries and mail-order companies. Get them into ground asap.
In the edible garden:
- Plant bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, garlic, kale, lettuce and spinach from nursery starts.
- Sow seeds of beet, carrot, onion, pea, radish, swiss chard and turnip.
- Garlic can also be put into the soil now. Garlic bulbs can be found at nurseries or online. Divide the bulbs into cloves and plant them about 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart. Garlic likes a sunny spot in friable soil. If you have clay soil you will want to loosen up the texture with organic soil amendment. Keep the soil moist until the green growth on top starts to dry. Harvest soon after.
- Control peach-leaf curl by spraying peach and nectarine trees with copper sulfate after leaves fall (be aware, copper can stay in the soil and is toxic).