In the Garden
Food Garden Tips
December Food Gardening
Tasks & Tips:
- Given the uncertainties of weather, it’s advisable to 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 to have dried—longer if possible.
- Spray fixed copper to peach and nectarine 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. With the recent rains, your soil should be pretty soaked, so now is a great time to pull weeds before the new root growth is strong enough to anchor them firmly.
- Clean, sharpen and oil garden tools and store them in a dry space. Steel wool will remove rust build up (wear gloves); some gardeners use wax paper throughout the year to wipe cleaned and dried blades after use to prevent/reduce rust.
- If there is disease in your orchard or food garden, wipe or dip your pruners with alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl) or spray with a disinfectant spray after every cut so that you do not spread the infection.
- Fight critters with critters—build a bat or owl house. Bats eat moths like the ones that lay eggs on vegetables, eggs that turn into hungry caterpillars. Voles are a tasty treat for owls.
- Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. Spraying with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) will organically control any cabbage worms that you find in your winter garden.
- Know what pest you are fighting so that you can select effective pest management strategies. Check out University of California’s natural enemies gallery.
- 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 with isopropyl or ethanol alcohol.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH:
- RHUBARB, Dec-Mar, C, T, Harvest 1 yr from roots, 3 yrs from seed
C = cool season crops that grow best in soil temps of 60° to 65°F and air temps of 55° to 75°F
T = crops are usually planted from transplants
For more information, refer to the Sonoma County “Vegetable Planting Summary” and individual crop articles on our website.