Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2008
Regional Report

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Four-year-old peppers still produce well through the mild winter.

Winterizing the Garden

Although my garden hasn't had any hard frost for several years -- which is why my pepper plants are now 4 years old -- I always make a point of helping the garden plants that need to go dormant get ready for winter. This helps them recoup energy for next spring's exertions. Plants that fall into this category include fruit trees, roses, and cacti, and succulents.

Our Average Frost Dates
According to the Sunset Western Garden Book listing for our general area, the average first frost is around Thanksgiving, and the average last one is the end of January. This is why I count on having my winter-producing veggies almost ready for their first harvest by Thanksgiving, and I put out the first seeds for the new gardening year after February 1.

While I sometimes continue to sow vegetable seeds in December and January, I know that those resulting plants will produce little before the weather makes them bolt, since they'll "think" they've endured a whole winter and their function then is to develop and sow their seed for the next generations. So, if you too sow seeds then, don't be surprised when this happens!

Getting Plants and Trees Ready In Case Frost Does Come!

The best frost protection for all plants and trees is to have sufficient water in the soil. Irrigate fall-planted trees and bushes deeply once or twice this month to settle them in well and ensure good root formation prior to dormancy. But, be careful to not waterlog soil that doesn't drain well. This goes for container plants, as well.

Give one last deep watering to tender subtropicals such as avocadoes, young citrus, guavas, and loquats, as well as grapevines and deciduous trees -- but discontinue feeding. This will begin hardening them off for cold weather. You want to discourage new growth that will be tender and susceptible to frost damage.

Provide protection for deciduous tree trunks, as the trees can be damaged more by the first frosts than by the later ones. Sunscald is also a problem during the winter, especially on the south- and west-facing surfaces of young trees with thin barks.

Support plastic coverings away from foliage with stakes to prevent conducting the cold directly to the leaves and freezing them.

Discontinue watering and feeding roses, and mulch them with manure and compost. Prune them lightly to remove the long, bloomed-out canes, but save hard pruning until January, when plants are fully dormant. Severe pruning now will encourage new growth which will freeze with the first frosts, wasting all that plant energy.

For the last time, water cacti and succulents that will go dormant during the winter. If they are in containers, place them under house eaves or other cover so they'll still receive bright light but winter rains won't drown or rot them. Normal humidity will be sufficient moisture for the winter.

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