What to do in Winter
People often ask me, “what do you do in the winter”? Honestly, in our climate one can normally proceed with garden activities throughout the month of December: invasive plant removals, planting, mulching, cleanup, even lawn installations. My neighbor installed a sod lawn in January. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if the materials are available, locally sourced and done with care, early winter can be a reasonable time to plant and give you a jump on Spring.
Besides planting, pruning and finishing the garden cleanup, we try to work on projects that can be done indoors so that we will be ready for an early Spring.
Our property manager Dan Pecquex brings in gates, benches and planters to refinish in a heated space. Felipe Aparicio, our resident Irrigation manager and jack of all trades, is currently working on constructing removable bamboo panels for our koi pond, to protect the Koi from predators like Herons.
Felipe has constructed wonderful bamboo trellises for the vegetable garden, and fencing for our walkways in the traditional Japanese style.
Of course, February is the beginning of our seed sowing season. After using January to peruse catalogs and sources on line, we plan the vegetable garden and borders, order our seed, and begin sowing. Some of the hardy perennials need cold stratification — sowing and storage in refrigeration to simulate winter conditions. This breaks the dormancy and allows seeds to germinate out of season.
By early March, the greenhouse and cold frames will be bursting at the seams, as we impatiently wait for warmer weather to plant. Planting of the earliest vegetables begins in January in our cold frames—Lettuce, Mache, Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia) and Beet greens. By mid-March we can (if we are lucky) sow our Peas and Spinach, as long as the soil temperature is 55 degree or above, and the soil is relatively dry.
One trick that I have learned over the years is to sow cold hardy annuals in the coldest part of our greenhouse in cells, so they go directly out into our Rock Garden. These tend to include plants that resent being transplanted. By sowing in groups in individual cells, I can gently slip them out and plant them without root disturbance. This simulates the action of a plant dropping its seeds in place in fall, germinating and over wintering. Our cleanup process of removing leaves would unfortunately damage small seedlings or blow away seeds.
Examples of plants we sow in this fashion, are things like Shirley and Iceland Poppies, California Poppies, annual Gypshopila (Baby’s Breath), Bells of Ireland, and more.
Come visit us in early May and see these beginning to blossom. Our first Open Garden Day will be held Sunday, May 6th from 10 am to 4 pm.