Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
January, 2011
Regional Report

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Recycle milk, water or juice containers into mini-greenhouses.

Wonderful Start To The New Year!

What a wonderful way to start the new year in the garden in Southern California, especially for fruit trees -- lots of rain permeating the ground deeply, and chilling temperatures for dormant plants. Together these promise well-supplied root systems and lots of fruit.

Rain without winter chill is good, but may not result in fully "rested" trees before spring and summer's vigorous growth and fruit output, The result is a weaker tree, like when you haven't had enough sleep for weeks and are still expected to be productive. In my garden, we've already received more than 12 inches of rain -- more than our average total for the whole year!

Winter chill without rain fosters dormant "sleep," but runs the risk of frost damage when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. This risk is what our plentiful rains help avoid, since well-watered plants are more resistant to damage. However, susceptible plants will still be hit. The ocean of nasturtiums that cover my garden from Thanksgiving onward looked pretty droopy following our New Year's Eve night temperatures.

With the six inches of rabbit bedding -- straw and shredded newspaper -- that I have covering my entire garden, the soil gently and thoroughly absorbed every drop of rain. Only the severe downpours resulted in short-term runoff. By adding to the "bunny bounty" every couple of weeks in areas where it's already decomposed, my garden soil is assured of ever increasing moisture-holding capacity and nutrition "melting" into it. And, no more need for labor-intensive digging and turning to incorporate the goodness! Even with last summer's first covering, I had to water very little (although, of course, the cooler-than-normal temperatures aided that situation).

I waited to go up the hill to the garden for four days following the last huge downpour, to allow the water to drain so I wouldn't compress the soil, even in the pathways. Everything looked wonderfully perky, including lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, chard, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, collards, and fava beans. The beets, carrots, parsley, and peas that I'd seeded just before the initial rains were up. Even two crookneck squash had over-ripened during the storms.

I'll leave all the fruit tree leaves that were knocked down by the rains to decompose in place and re-feed their same trees with the precise nutrition that they pulled from the trees in the first place. This is far easier than cleaning up after them to move the leaves to the compost pile, and then hauling the finished compost back to the trees.

So, we've had the best winter possible so far!

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