Hope springs eternal for San Diego gardeners who are looking forward to decent rain and cooler temperatures to bless our efforts to grow foods and flowers in our gardens. Good drainage is going to make a difference for winter vegetables.
GARDENING CHECK LIST
• Follow a garden cleanup with a new application of mulch.
• Plant lettuce seeds and enjoy fresh salad makings during the holidays.
• Remove leaves and other debris from gutters.
• When rain is forecast, sow wildflower seeds.
• Irrigate less as the days grow shorter and temperatures dip.
• Clip fresh herbs from the garden for Thanksgiving dishes.
• Keep potted poinsettias away from drying heat and cold.
• Finish planting spring blooming bulbs.
• Add plants to a home orchard during bare-root season.
• Protect cold-sensitive plants when freeze or frost is forecast.
• Give garden pals a gift subscription to California Garden.
• Decorate holiday tables with long-lasting succulent bouquets.
DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANTS
CACTUS and SUCCULENTS
• Little care is needed now, as cooler, wetter weather is good for succulents. Make sure succulents have good drainage, especially those in containers. Keep plants free of debris like fallen leaves.
• Water landscape-grown cacti and water succulents only if their leaves appear shriveled.
• If hail or frost is forecast, shelter container grown plants. • A plastic shower curtain or tablecloth can protect succulents in the landscape.
• Do not water if freezing temperatures are predicted.
• Bring succulents into your home to provide enduring green. Potted small succulents tolerate a week at a time indoors. Place them in a bright window.
• Succulent wreaths started earlier in the year will be ready to hang on a gate or door.
• Pot up succulents to give as gifts. Children and seniors especially like their easy care.
• Schlumbergera or Christmas cactus is blooming now. • Take cuttings of these plants once the flowers are spent.
Coastal Sage Gardening
• Prune and deadhead the native sages and California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).
• Do not prune toyon because its red berries add holiday color in the garden and feed wildlife.
• The next few cool months are the best for establishing native plants. Accordingly, dig holes and water them several times before planting. Do not add soil amendments because native plants prefer native soil.
• Sow wildflower seeds now. Choose from favorites like, California poppy, mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), purple owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta), baby blue-eyes (Nemophila menziesii), Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla) and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena).
• For extra good germination, sow seeds just before or between rainy weather.
San Diego Herb Club
• Unlike gardeners in other climates in the late fall, gardeners here are not winding down, they are just getting started. As the first rains fall, it’s time to plant cool-weather herbs and native plants.
• Calendula, parsley and chives all enjoy the cool months. • Nasturtiums come back on their own and probably not where expected. If planting some this year, look for clumping varieties that won’t spread into area canyons.
• Consider growing a manzanita (Arctostaphylos), black sage (Salvia mellifera), brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) or a mesquite tree (Prosopis).
• Prune any trees or shrubs that lose their leaves in the winter such as willow, walnut, poplar and pomegranate.
• Make gifts from the herbs you have been saving. Strain herbal-infused oils and add melted beeswax to make them into salves. Mix lavender and chamomile blooms with flax seeds and fill cloth tubes to make fragrant sleep pillows. Finely grind dried rose petals and mix with Epsom salts and baking soda for elegant bath salts.
FRUIT TREES AND VINES
UC Cooperative Extension
• Prune deciduous trees and vines after their foliage has dropped. Wait until early spring to prune evergreens.
• Spray dormant deciduous trees and vines with horticultural oil to kill scale, insects, spider mites and other over-wintering pests.
• Spray peach and nectarine trees with a fungicide to control leaf curl. For more information on leaf curl and Bordeaux mixture visit ipm.ucdavis.edu.
• Order low-chill bare root trees and vines to plant in December or January.
• Provide frost protection for young avocado, citrus and other subtropical fruit trees.
• Learn more about backyard orchards at http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu.
UC Cooperative Extension
• Remove and compost warm-season vegetables to prevent pests and diseases from over-wintering in the garden.
• Continue planting cool-season vegetables that will not be subject to frost injury. Sow or buy transplants of broccoli, carrots, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips.
• Plant seeds of short-day onions (Grano or Granex) and garlic cloves in November for bulbs next summer.
• Plant dormant crowns of artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb. To avoid crown rot of rhubarb, plant crowns in containers filled with porous potting soil; after several leaves have developed, transplant into a garden where drainage is good.
• Learn more about vegetable gardening at http://vric.ucdavis.edu.
ISA Certified Arborist/Urban Forester
• Buy fresh-cut holiday trees and plan to recycle them after the season.
• Purchase live, container-grown evergreens, and plant or donate them to fill bare urban spaces.
• Locate quality nursery sources for the largest selection of bare-root trees. Remember not all rootstocks are the same quality.
• Continue to plant dormant saplings during the rainy season because the water aids vital root growth.
• Monitor soil and supplement low winter rainfall with periodic deep watering for trees.
• Remember some evergreens are sensitive to diseases if pruned when sap has increased its flow.
• Hire only licensed and insured certified arborists to prune large trees. Do not top trees.
FAVORITE and SPECIALTY FLOWERS
San Diego North County African Violet Society
• Violet pots should be one-third the width of the plant. Small plants may need to be potted down and larger plants may need to go into a larger container.
• Check violets for suckers that distort the plant as they mature. Violets should have a single crown. Remove suckers or extra crowns with a knife and repot them as bonus plants.
• Water plants with lukewarm water to avoid shock.
• Look for leaves that cup or have turned gray. This can signal an insect infestation.
• If older violets have long necks causing them to droop to one side, repot them deeper to hide the neck. If the neck is too long for that treatment, it needs to be cut back and then repotted. Put a plastic bag over the plant with a small hole for air to create a greenhouse for several weeks to encourage it to root after removal.
American Begonia Society, Margaret Lee Branch
• Water plants as the weather dictates.
• Keep dying leaves, flowers, and debris removed from plants.
• Lightly feed plants so they gain strength for adverse weather.
• Use soil or mulch to cover roots exposed by rain or watering.
• Be vigilant for pests and diseases and control with appropriate methods.
• Allow foliage on tuberous begonias to die back naturally and put tubers aside to rest for the winter.
San Diego Bromeliad Society
• Water less frequently during the cold months.
• Clean plants before winter. Cut off dead leaves and spent blooms and check for scale.
• To protect plants from frostbite, keep them about 30 inches above ground level. When freezing temperatures are expected, cover them with old sheets.
San Diego Camellia Society
• Fertilize camellias monthly (September through January) with 0-10-10 for extra large blooms.
• Pick up spent blooms from the ground to prevent petal blight.
• Don’t let plants dry out; but if it rains heavily, then stop supplemental watering.
• Move, or repot camellias now since their dormant season is underway (October through March). When planting, whether in the soil or in a pot, keep the crown one inch higher than soil level.
• Camellias mainly prefer shady spots, but surprisingly some like sun. Find out each camellia’s specific light requirement before planting.
• Look for camellias in the nursery now. Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ blooms during the holidays. Other midseason (December through February) bloomers to look for are ‘Guilio Nuncio,’ ‘Kramer’s Supreme,’ ‘Tiffany,’ ‘Debutante,’ ‘Silver Waves,’ ‘High Fragrance’ and ‘Scentsation.’
San Diego Fern Society
• Withhold fertilizer and let ferns rest until spring growth appears.
• Most ferns don’t grow much in the colder months, so supplemental water is not needed unless it is a dry winter or their containers dry out.
• Trim off dead fronds. Remember, some ferns go completely dormant, so don’t toss plants out.
• Protect tropical ferns when the weather dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
San Diego Geranium Society
• For fuller geraniums and more blooms in the spring, start now by cutting back one-third of the stems to about two-thirds of their length.
• Start new plants from the cuttings. Place cuttings in pots or in well-draining trays of damp perlite. Space them about three inches apart.
• Clean established plants after pruning by removing dead or damaged leaves. Watch for geranium rust in high humidity areas and treat appropriately.
• Although less water is needed in cooler months, don’t let plants get too dry. Avoid wetting foliage when watering.
• Budworms can continue to be a problem, although they are less prevalent than in the spring. Use a systemic insecticide for best results. Alternatively, try Bt. (Bacillus thuringiensis) and spray every seven days. It remains in the garden for only a short time, targets caterpillars and is less toxic.
San Diego Iris Society
• It is not too late to fertilize or plant new irises.
• Pull weeds as necessary. Keep the beds clean of everything except growing iris.
• Check often for aphids, particularly if winter is mild.
• Re-blooming iris need extra fertilizer and water.
San Diego County Orchid Society
• Phalaenopsis or moth orchids that have spent summer and fall outdoors should have emerging bloom spikes.
• Stake these spikes with a long, bendable stake that supports the arching inflorescences.
• Some orchids such as cymbidiums, epidendrums, zygopetalums, and the Mexican laelias can overwinter outside. These plants can handle temperatures above 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Reduce watering to help them withstand cooler temperatures.
• Cymbidiums spikes should be staked up straight to show off the flowers. Spikes not staked early can flop and break.
• The zygopetalums and Mexican laelias start blooming this time of year. Some cymbidiums also will bloom during the holidays.
Southern California Plumeria Society
• Get plants ready for winter weather and dormancy. Remove dead flowers and leaves. Do not pull leaves off; instead cut the leaves off a couple inches from the stem. The part remaining will fall off on its own.
• Prop up one side of potted plants to ensure sufficient drainage over the winter. Cover soil in large pots with mulch.
• By Thanksgiving, stop watering and fertilizing.
Place potted plants next to a building or under a covered patio to protect from the cold. In frost prone areas, move plants into a protected spot such as an enclosed patio or a garage with windows.
San Diego Rose Society
• Reduce watering but do not allow bushes to become too dry if fall rains are light.
• Encourage semi-dormancy by removing petals only instead of deadheading the whole flower. It’s fine to pick an occasional bloom to put in a vase.
• Study websites and catalogs for prospective replacement roses.
• Pruning is an ongoing learning process. Get hands-on instructions the first Saturday in January at the Balboa Park Rose Garden. For details, consult sdrosesociety.org.
• Remove non-producing or disease-ridden bushes and amend the soil in preparation for new rose plants.
• Prune floribundas in late December but wait to prune hybrid teas until leaf buds begin to swell in January or early February. Consult rosarians in your area for the best date.
• Double check your equipment before pruning. Sharpen pruners and don’t forget gloves and knee pads.
• Use Lysol to sterilize pruners and loppers between each bush. Use steel wool to clean the blades of these tools as needed.
Mission: To promote the knowledge and appreciation of horticulture and floriculture in the San Diego region.