Basics of a Year in Gardening
In Sonoma County’s mild Mediterranean climate, many gardeners opt to spend every month in the garden—growing food crops, maintaining ornamentals, or tending fruit trees. While spotlights often shine on summer gardening, a myriad of possibilities for serious gardening or simply dabbling in the soil can bring gardens to life in spring, fall, and winter as well.
No matter the season or the approach, staying on top of certain tasks brings best success.
- Follow good cultural practices—correct planting locations and planting dates, light, water, fertilizing, and pruning—for healthy plants.
- Apply one to two-inches of aged compost to garden beds once or twice annually to maintain soil fertility and promote plant health.
- Mulch beds regularly to prevent weed growth and reduce evaporation.
- Check soil moisture to avoid over-or under-watering.
- Harvest crops and deadhead spent flowers as they mature to encourage continuous production throughout the seasons.
Early in the year, look ahead to seasonal tasks and create a plan for accomplishing them.
- Clean and sharpen tools, gather seeds, and prepare pots for seeding and planting.
- Create a timetable for seeding, potting up, and planting food and ornamental crops.
- Check irrigation systems and make repairs as needed.
With a plan in mind, begin gardening in the late-winter, early-spring cool season.
- Keeping an eye on the weather, plant cool-season crops for spring harvest.
- Plant hardy perennials, shrubs, and trees early in the year to take advantage of winter rains but avoid working in soggy soil.
- Apply compost, fertilizer, and mulch as needed.
- Start seeds indoors in preparation for transplanting annuals and tender species when the weather warms.
- Eliminate early emerging weeds and compost them prior to seed formation.
- Plant summer bulbs.
Gardening in Warm Months
Begin warm-season gardening after the last frost, generally April 15 in Sonoma County, although many gardeners wait until May 1. Dates vary in coastal and many inland microclimates.
- Follow seeding and planting directions on seed packets and nursery labels.
- Continue to add kitchen scraps and debris collected in spring clean-up to a compost pile.
- Begin irrigating when there is insufficient moisture in the soil.
Good cultural practices pervade all aspects of gardening, but problems may occur. Frequent hands-on activities alert the gardener to any problems that may arise.
- Watch for pests & diseases and apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques by avoiding toxins.
- Continue weed control with compost and mulch on garden beds.
- Stagger planting of food crops and flowering annuals for continuous harvest and blooms.
- Begin summer pruning to manage fruit-tree growth and appropriate flowering shrubs.
Transition to the Cool Season
Winding down in late summer may be bitter sweet for some gardeners as bountiful food production slows and floral perennials and shrubs prepare for dormancy. Other gardeners embrace the onset of yet another gardening season in fall and winter.
- Harvest and clean up spent plants in both the food and ornamental gardens.
- Continue to turn and add to the compost pile.
- Consult the year-round time table and plant cool-season food crops, allowing ample time for growth to maturity before frost.
- Cut back on irrigating as plants require less moisture.
- Plant a cover crop in beds that will remain empty during the rainy season.
- Plant late-season annuals for fall color, spring bulbs for overwintering.
- Divide and/or set out hardy plants with the onset of rains to encourage rapid root growth while the soil remains warm.
- Cut back ornamental grasses.
- Protect tender plants from frost damage.
- Begin winter pruning of dormant shrubs and fruit trees to promote spring growth.
- Plant bare-root trees, shrubs, and perennial food crops
- Dormant spray fruit trees using IPM methods.
- Soil and Composting
- Year-round food gardening in Sonoma County (year-round food gardening)