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Things to do in the Garden During December and January

Winter is here to stay and for some it is a welcome break to working outdoors. Some may want to just stay indoors next to a warm fire and sip some cocoa! But don't stay indoors too long because there is still a lot of things you should be doing out in the garden and orchard during the winter. In our video, December-January Checklist, Tricia takes you through some of the things she is doing at her home during the winter months.

In the Orchard

  • Continue cleaning up debris, fallen leaves, rotting fruits or veggies from around trees and in the garden.
  • Prune your apples, pears, peaches and nectarines. We have some helpful videos to watch if you have any questions and they all can be found at Fruit Tree Central.
  • Apply dormant sprays after leaf drop and do two to three treatments. This will kill overwintering insect eggs, mites, soft bodied insects, scale and fungal diseases like peach leaf curl. Treat your stone fruit trees that are susceptible to peach leaf curl with dormant sprays three times—treat after leaf drop, again on New Year’s day (or around that time), and a third time at Valentine’s Day. Follow the product's label for application rates and other useful information.
  • Protect plants from rabbits and deer since their food supplies are becoming scarce and they may try to chew on otherwise less desirable plants and bark.
  • Order and plant your bare root trees, berries, vines and perennial vegetable crowns to get the best selection. These ship in mid-December through the spring, but order early since quantities are limited and some varieties sell out.

In and Around the Garden

  • Add compost and mulch around your perennial veggies (asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb…) and berries to protect from freezing temperatures.
  • If you want to grow into the winter, make a hoop house over your raised beds or garden and cover with greenhouse poly. You can grow lettuce, greens and much more through the cold winter months.
  • Have frost blankets on hand to protect perennials from hard frosts.
  • Continue adding to your compost pile. Monitor compost pile for moisture level, it should be moist but not soggy. Add a compost cover if the pile is getting too wet.
  • Start garden planning for next year. Think about the lessons you learned from the previous garden. Map out your garden for next year, keeping in mind crop rotation, and order your seeds for your spring and summer garden.
  • Prune your blackberries according to the type you have—erect, semi-erect or trailing. Blackberries have three possible growth habits—erect, semi-erect or trailing. The way to train and prune them will depend on the type. Dormant pruning of erect blackberries entails removing dead canes and cutting back laterals to 12–18”. Semi-erect blackberries should be thinned to 5 to 8 of the strongest canes and shorten the laterals to 12–18” and remove any growing on the lower 3’ section of the main canes. Tie to a fence or trellis to provide support. Trailing blackberries are less cold tolerant and in cold regions the canes can be left on the ground and protected with rowcover over the winter. In spring the canes can be lifted and tied to a trellis at 3’ and 6’.
  • Prune your raspberries and thin out if they are too thick. Watch our video on Growing Raspberries and Blackberries for how to do this.

Around the House

  • Store your firewood away from house. Cockroaches, termites and other insects can live in wood piles and could make their way indoors if stored right next to the home.
  • If moving citrus or other potted bushes indoors, check the humidity level in area and the direction of air flow from vents so they are not directly affecting the plants.
  • Prune your hybrid tea roses (at least in California). They only bloom on new wood so pruning will help promote new, healthy growth. Cut back canes 1/3 to 1/2, leaving them at least 18” tall. Cut above the outward pointing bud, to encourage growth away from the center of the plant. Remove dead wood and any suckers coming off the root stock.

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