Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
December, 2010
Regional Report

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Interplanting asparagus and artichokes takes advantage of differing growth and fruiting rates.

Winter Edible Gardening-- With Rain!

The sun's light and warmth slip to the year's low ebb this month. During warm spells, however, some seeds will germinate, so sowing under protected conditions is worth the effort. These seedlings can fill gaps in the winter garden and continue harvests into early spring. But, plants will grow vvvveeeeerrrrrrrrrrryyyyy slowly, so sow or transplant three or four times the amount you would in the spring.

Fresh-picked lettuce, spinach, leeks, chard, kale and other greens are delicious, nutritious, and far less expensive that what's available at the supermarket. They're worth starting now if only for their flavor and texture added to store-bought basics. Besides, it's wonderful to have something bright green growing in the garden all winter -- besides weeds.

To help concentrate daytime warmth and increase germination, cover the bed with clear plastic sheeting. Anchor down the edges with soil or rocks to keep out slugs and others who love the succulent sprouts, and to keep the sheeting from blowing away.

Transplant globe artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, horseradish, and rhubarb; also cane berries, grapes, and strawberries. Planting asparagus at different depths will provide a longer harvest. The shallow asparagus will send up its spears early in the season, and the deeper crowns will bear later.

Our wonderful rain presents a bit of a timing issue when digging or transplanting into the garden, especially in clay soil. Now that it's thoroughly cold and moist, cultivate the soil very gently, being careful to not compact it. If the soil crumbles after squeezing a fistful, it's OK to work, but if it squishes or stays in a lump, it's too wet, so wait several days for the water to drain some more. Then, after gently gathering the soil back around the transplant's roots, barely water it in -- just enough to settle the plant's roots. Tamping the soil more than lightly will damage the soil's tilth by compression.

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