December gardening and a few gift ideas for the green thumbs on your list

December gardening and a few gift ideas for the green thumbs on your list

The vacation period is a fantastic time to backyard and to indulge the gardeners you know. Searching for a backyard garden gift? My favored items to give and to get involve:

  • Unusual vegetation
  • A durable trowel
  • Pruning shears that healthy the hand correctly
  • A weather conditions station to keep track of rainfall and temperature
  • Sturdy, tender gloves
  • A sharp weeding scythe
  • Hand lotion
  • A worm compost process — with worms, of class!


Here’s the problem: The heat, dry weather means we need to have to water extra frequently than in a “normal” calendar year. Drought signifies there is a lot less drinking water available. What to do? Change to inline drip irrigation. Inline drip is mainly prolonged versatile tubing with emitters embedded inside the lines. Lay it out in a grid on the floor of every single back garden mattress so just about every bed receives wetted evenly and drinking water penetrates down to the roots. Go over the irrigation and the bed with at least 3 inches of mulch to lessen evaporation. It’s the fantastic alternative.

Even although the weather is dry, the sunshine is low in the sky, so crops need water much less frequently than at the peak of summer.

How prolonged to drinking water? Run your irrigation method, one zone at a time. As every zone finishes, adhere your finger all the way down into the soil, as deep as you can. Is it soaked all the way down? If not, run the irrigation again. Figure out how very long it will take for the h2o to arrive at down to the roots. That’s how you figure out the run time for every zone.

Are you watering frequently enough? Or also usually? Do the Canary Take a look at to figure out how normally to run each zone. As you run every zone, mark the date on your calendar. Then flip the zone off. Check out that region of your yard for the first plant to have droopy leaves (which is the canary) and test your calendar. Run the h2o just quick of the time it took for the initially plant to droop. Use this details to established how frequently just about every irrigation zone operates. Really don’t expect them all to be the similar. So, if it took 12 times for the very first plant to droop, operate that zone every single 11 days. If it drooped right after 3 months, operate the zone every single 20 days. Where the initially plant drooped immediately after a week, run that zone just about every 6 times, and so on.

Be sure to operate your irrigation the day in advance of Santa Ana winds are anticipated. Saturating the soil safeguards plants from desiccation.

If you nonetheless use overhead spray, it is time to swap to inline drip. Inline drip — not the sort of drip with person emitters at the conclude of narrow tubing — is the most productive and effective irrigation readily available.

Deal with h2o

H2o cisterns permit you to seize a big quantity of water and use it around time. Some cisterns are set up above ground, some others are buried underground and out of sight. These devices are created of strong supplies like concrete, fiberglass and polyethylene.

Water cisterns can keep hundreds to hundreds of gallons. Select a size centered on the measurement of your roof. From an inch of rainfall, the common produce is 62 gallons of drinking water from just about every 100 sq. feet of roof. Immediate the downspouts from the roof to the cistern.

As you prepare planting beds, condition the soil to contain dips and swales to capture drinking water so it can percolate into the surrounding soil. Bank water now to make it out there for prolonged-term withdrawal by plants’ roots in spring.

If you have a location that floods regularly, reconfigure the contours, put in a French drain, lay out sandbags, and so on.

Empty water that accumulates in dishes beneath potted crops, buckets, containers and other areas where the continual humidity can drown plant roots or turn into a mosquito nursery.

Thoroughly clean rain gutters. When clogged rain gutters overflow, the falling water destroys in-floor crops beneath. Compost the debris or use it as mulch.

Just after the rain, keep off the soil for two times. Wet soil compacts very easily, so fairly than dig or weed or plant, do chores like repotting plants, cleansing your toolshed and organizing for spring.

Update ornamentals

One particular of the most crucial approaches to take care of drinking water is by carefully picking out and managing your plants. This is THE time to program and carry out a drought-tolerant approach.

Glance for crops with slim leaves, small leaves, succulent leaves, fuzzy leaves, silvery leaves, difficult leathery leaves, and/or needles. These variations help crops preserve h2o in the warmth.

Indigenous oaks, toyon and lemonade berry are amongst the most typical and sturdiest of the natives to use as history trees and shrubs. Versus their deep green, plant silver-leaved succulent Dudleya rosettes, yellow flowering bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), and lavender-flowered chaparral mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus).

From Australia, plant flame tree Brachychiton acerifolius, any of the excellent, flower-filled Grevillea — they are all hummingbird magnets — and black and yellow flowered black coral pea vine (Kennedia nigricans, hard to uncover but really worth the lookup).

Every back garden demands drought-tolerant trees — as quite a few as attainable. Strawberry tree Arbutus ‘Marina’ has stunning shreddy mahogany-colored bark with shiny eco-friendly leaves and pink bouquets in spring. Gold medallion tree (Cassia leptophylla) is a slender, medium-dimensions tree with vivid yellow flowers that change into lengthy, festive inexperienced bean pods. Tecate cypress (Hesperocyparus forbesii) is a Southern California native that is exceptional in habitat but easily offered in nurseries. It is a far, significantly greater option than Italian cypress.

Succulent aloes place on a lovely display this time of 12 months. One particular of my favorites is Aloe rubraviolaceae, a low-increasing rosette variety Aloe whose teal leaves are edged in tender rose. Each individual rosette capabilities a solitary, tall candelabrum of stout, poker-model flowers that bloom pink-orange.

Test some distinctive succulents in your landscape: Furcraea mcdougalii grows up to 20 toes tall. It has a tall gray trunk, atop which it appears to be like an olive-eco-friendly agave. Furcraea bedinghausii is another giant this just one grows up to 15 feet tall with a trunk topped in tall, blue-eco-friendly blades. Furcraea foetida is a shorty, only 3 to 5 ft tall and 3 feet large, with flexible, vibrant environmentally friendly blades. Its cousin, Furcraea foetida, has delightful yellow and inexperienced stripes.

Check out your favorite nursery for bare-root blueberries previously offered. Reserve bare-root fruit trees and shrubs that get there upcoming thirty day period: pomegranates, figs, peaches, apples, nectarines, pears, apricots and much more.

Get ready for cold

While we really do not get tough frosts, crops from coastline to mountains can experience frost hurt on a chilly night time.

Defend cold-sensitive plants like Plumeria, bromeliads, some forms of succulents, and so forth. Shift potted crops below the eaves or below very low branches of evergreen trees. Address in-ground vegetation with floating row go over (NOT plastic and not a bed sheet). Use clothespins to secure the cover in position.

Do not reduce off the harmed sections of a frosted plant — they guard the relaxation of the plant from the next freezes. Hold out until eventually February or March, when the danger of frost has disappeared.

Fruit trees

This is the most critical upkeep time for deciduous fruit trees like peaches, nectarines, pluots, apriums, apples and other folks that fall their leaves in wintertime.

Amongst now and the end of January:

Strip leaves off the branches of stone fruits, pears and apples if they really do not slide off on their very own. Leaves can be infected with fungus and other pathogens that overwinter. Really don’t compost them. Rake them up alternatively, then send them off in the greenwaste.

Prune deciduous fruit trees, having treatment NOT to lower off the fruiting wooden. Unique forms of fruit trees type fruits on a various components of their branches. Apples, for example, improve short spurs together the branches. All those spurs make bouquets and fruits. Pomegranates and figs fruit at the finish of branches. Pluots fruit together the length of the department. Know what the fruit is just before you reduce.

My most loved pruning guide is “How to Prune Fruit Trees” by R. Sanford Martin. It’s a classic!

Right after pruning, spray fruit trees to get rid of overwintering pests and illnesses. Spray each and every cure the moment, wait two months, spray again, wait two weeks and spray a 3rd time.

  • Spray apple and pear trees with mineral-primarily based horticultural oil to suffocate scale, whiteflies, mealy bugs and other small pests that overwinter in the bark.
  • Spray stone fruits (peach, nectarine, plum, etc.) with liquid copper to destroy the fungus responsible for the dreaded peach leaf curl. Spray mineral-centered horticultural oil, also.

Just about every time you spray, coat all branches and trunks, from recommendations to base. The improved the coverage, the much more your trees are protected.

If you have tons of fruit trees, take into consideration a battery-run sprayer. These types of a sprayer is more pricey than a hand pump but is less difficult to use, significantly more quickly, and much more successful.

Prune proven ornamentals

Winter season is time to prune decorative trees and shrubs. Employ a licensed arborist to eliminate weak or useless branches, look at for borer infestations, structural integrity, and so on. If you never have a favourite accredited arborist, obtain a single at

If you do the pruning, sharpen your pruning equipment to start with so they make clean, healthier cuts that really do not shred the wooden.

Function clean up. Disinfect pruning shears, saws, loppers and other slicing resources right before and among crops to keep away from spreading diseases and pests from just one plant to the upcoming. I use spray household disinfectant.

Start off pruning by initially eradicating dead branches, weak wooden and crossing branches. Then prune for condition.

Make cuts in the suitable spot. Observe every single department to where by it attaches to the trunk or to the future larger sized branch. Detect the swelling at the foundation of the department? That’s termed the department collar. When you reduce, minimize up to the department collar, leaving no stubs at the rear of.

By no means best a tree. If a tree is way too tall, substitute it with one (or two or three) that doesn’t improve that tall.

Prune, then spray roses with horticultural oil. Do not prune shrub roses down to nubs. The additional branches, the a lot more flowers, so allow your rose bushes develop substantial.

Each individual time you finish pruning, spray your equipment, wipe them dry and lubricate them with mineral oil just before storing.

Care for potted crops

It is poinsettia time! Eliminate the extravagant foil as quickly as you get the poinsettia home. Make positive its pot has drainage holes. If it does not, move the plant to a new pot with drainage. Spot it in a brightly lit space absent from the heater vent and away from a cold window. Drinking water adequate to keep the soil damp but not damp. Really don’t fertilize right until right after the holidays.

Keep track of potted crops. Feel the potting soil each number of days and water right before the soil will get as well dry. A humidifier can support maintain indoor air moist and plants from drying out.

Command pesky small black flies. These fungus gnats are attracted to wet organic subject in the potting soil. They are straightforward to regulate devoid of chemicals or sprays if you 1) water a lot less (your crops will be wonderful) and 2) address the surface of the potting soil with a ½- to 1-inch-thick layer of smaller pebbles, aquarium rocks, even marbles. They sort a barrier the flies just can’t penetrate.

Edible gardens

All summer season veggie crops really should be eradicated by now. Even if your tomato or pepper carries on to deliver, subsequent 12 months it won’t be just about as effective and vigorous as this calendar year. Pull them out and start out once more in spring.

Before you replant pots or raised beds, include compost to bring the soil amount again to the major. Sprinkle in earthworm castings and vegetable fertilizer.

Plant winter season root vegetable seeds (not seedlings) now: beets, turnips, radishes, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips.

Plant greens and cabbage relatives plants from seed or seedling: lettuce, spinach, kohlrabi, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and additional.

Plant annual parsley, dill and cilantro from seed. These annual herbs do very best in vegetable gardens.

Plant perennial oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage and rosemary from 4-inch or 1-gallon pots into a lasting location in the garden. Considering that they are all waterwise Mediterranean natives, plant them in decorative backyard beds.

To harvest greens like lettuce, kale, spinach, bok choy and tatsoi, only cut off as quite a few leaves as you need to have and let the plants continue on to mature. Harvest herbs the exact way.


How thick is your garden’s mulch? Aim for a least of 3 inches more than every yard mattress. Be confident irrigation lines are below the mulch, not on major.

Mulch succulents with rock or gravel. Mulch nonsucculents with aged woody mulch or with refreshing wooden chips that are lesser than an inch. Much larger new wooden chips can carry lethal borers into your backyard. Aged wood chips are not problematic.

Drought-evidence yard!

Remember to be part of me at 10 a.m. on Dec. 6 for “Drought-Proof Your Yard.” This webinar is free of charge, but preregistration is expected at

Sterman is a waterwise yard designer and author and the host of “A Growing Passion” on KPBS television. Additional information and facts is at and