In the Garden
- We nurture and protect the soil.
- We use compost and organic amendments to feed the soil organisms that, in turn, feed our plants. If we make our own compost, we are recycling our organic matter
- We use mulch to cover our soil, prevent weeds and conserve water.
- We practice minimum soil disturbance
- We plant the right plant, in the right place, at the right time.
- We include flowers that benefit the vegetables and that attract good insects.
- We avoid using synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
Food Garden Tips
December Food Garden Tasks and Tips
For what to grow this month, click here.
- The National Weather Service long-tern rainfall projections give us an equal chance of above normal, normal, and below normal rainfall through April. So, just in case, prepare and protect garden beds from possible heavy rain. Wait for a period of dry days to spray or prune trees. Spray after the trees have dried out and long enough before predicted rain for the sprayed trees have dried, longer if possible.
- Spray fixed copper to peach trees after leaves have fallen to control peach leaf curl and brown rot.
- Spray fruit trees with organic and vegetable oil-based dormant oil. The oil smothers overwintering insect eggs and pests.
- Dormant pruning of fruit trees can be done from the beginning of leaf fall up to bloom. See UC guidance on pruning and training fruit trees. Little or no pruning of citrus is required: prune out any crossing, broken or shaded out branches from the interior of the tree.
- If you don’t have a drip system in your food garden, buy supplies so that you’ll be prepared to install the system before your early spring garden is started. Drip is the most efficient way to deliver water to your garden—an important consideration during a drought.
- Instead of raking and depositing your leaves in the green bin, run the lawnmower over them to shred them and use them as mulch on your winter veggies beds. These leaves contain many nutrients that the trees pulled out of the soil and atmosphere. In addition to feeding your soil, you will be protecting soil from erosion and moisture evaporation, retarding winter weed growth and preventing splash from rain that could deposit soil-borne disease on your winter crops.
- If a heavy freeze is predicted, cover citrus trees with frost cloth, sheets or burlap draped over stakes, keeping fabric away from foliage and fruit. A 100-watt outdoor bulb under the cover will lend a few degrees of added warmth.
- Grow sprouts and herbs in a sunny kitchen window.
- Read up on cold frames, plastic tunnels, row covers, cloches and other plant protection in order to extend the growing season next year. Take advantage of sales on the supplies you will need for planting early spring crops.
- December 21 is the shortest day of the year with the longest shadows. At high noon, note where the yard is sunniest—this is the best place to plant your fall and winter food garden next year.
- With fewer gardening tasks, this is a good month to research perennial weed problems. Look at University of California’s weed photo gallery to identify weeds and watch a video on weed control techniques. Most weeds can be easily pulled in fall or early winter, once the soil has been soaked, but before the new root growth is strong enough to anchor them firmly.
- Know what pest you are fighting so that you can select effective pest management strategies. Check out University of California’s natural enemies gallery. Spraying with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) will organically control any cabbage worms that you find in your winter garden.
- Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. Good cultural practices (i.e., the correct location, light, water, pruning, fertilizer, planting date) contribute to healthy plants. Sanitation is an important aspect of disease prevention. Clear garden debris and, then, clean and disinfect tools in a 10-percent bleach solution for one or two minutes.