December 2023 begins wet and wild here in our North Coast where the grasses are green, the fall trees still turning color and the soil is finally soaked. Whatever the weather, there are always chores to be done in the garden, besides mowing the grass. Here are a few suggestions:
GARDEN INDOORS: If the weather gets you down, try some fun indoor gardening. Simply growing broccoli, radish or alfalfa sprouts in a jar is a fun, easy and nutritious way to play indoors. If you have a sunny west or south facing window, try a small indoor herb garden. Chives, cilantro, thyme and basil are easy to grow indoors in small containers.
CHECK YOUR TREES: Don’t wait for the big winds of winter storms to arrive before inspecting trees around the home. Limbs and branches of some may be weak and subject to breakage or falling during the next storm. Check for split limbs, torn branches and such. If you have a large tree next to your home, be sure to ask an arborist to inspect for safety and health.
WAIT TO PRUNE: Freezing temperatures from a couple of weeks ago have knocked back many tender perennials that normally tolerate a bit of frost. Resist the temptation to cut back and clean them up. The freeze-burnt foliage, although unsightly, will protect roots and shoots at the soil line when future freezes occur. Lightly trim for neatness if you must. Otherwise, leave things alone for a time.
MULCH THE SOIL: Now that winter rains are starting up and the summer dry soil moistens, it’s time to mulch. A fresh blanket will smother weed seedlings beginning to sprout, as well as protect soil from erosion. Rice straw is good for vegetable and cut flower beds. Chipper mulch, shredded bark and bark chips work well for ornamental landscape beds.
COLOR YOUR SPACE: Don’t let the hustle bustle of the holidays wear you out. Why not take a trip to your local nursery and check out winter bloomers? Primulas, cyclamen, pansies and violas will add cheerful color to containers and beds.
BEWARE OF SLIMEYS: It may seem like spring planting is ages away, but now is the time to begin checking growing areas for slugs and snails. Sprinkling out organic slug baits now will go a long way in cutting your losses when it is time to out young flower and vegetable starts later on. Baiting now will also protect the flowers of spring blooming bulbs and freshly planted winter vegetable starts.
Terry Kramer is the retired site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. She currently runs a gardening consulting business. Contact her at 707-834-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.