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Early Winter Garden Tips

Written By Shauna Lambeth 01 Dec 2023
Early Winter Garden Tips

Now is a great time to plant hardy shrubs, trees, hedging plants and fruit trees. Here on the mild West Coast, we can plant right through the winter. The only exception to this would be not to plant when we have snow or when the ground is frozen. Planting now has some real benefits like allowing your new plants to settle in without the stress of summer heat. Don't forget to add some good amendments to your soil when you plant such as bonemeal, peat moss and manure. Always water your new transplants in well to ensure the soil fills in around the roots properly. Remember that the whole first year your new plants will require regular watering right through until next year's fall rains.

Check that stakes on young trees are secure for the southeasters that will come. We find the best way to stake young trees is to provide two (or three) stakes, one on each side of the tree, each eight to ten inches from the trunk. Tie in an extended figure eight with a pliable material, such as rubber tubing or pantyhose, that won't cut into the tree. Tying in this way enables the tree to move in the wind but only to a certain extent. Trees tied too tight are at risk of being damaged on the bark (or snapping off above the tied place) and do not as readily develop a collar of roots to anchor it as it matures.

As the leaves drop on your climbing roses you can also check that they are securely tied. Extra length on canes can be trimmed to shape at this time as well and any spindly growth (thinner than a pencil) can be removed.
Bush roses are ideally pruned in late February or early March but you can remove extra lengths from these now to protect from them from breaking with snow or fierce winds. Do not prune lower than about 24 or so inches as we may have a cold winter which can result in a fair bit of dieback as a result.

Many gardeners want to prune their flowering shrubs at this time but be very careful; some plants already have their flower buds formed and you will be trimming them off such as lilacs, Pieris rhododendrons, forsythia and many more; For these spring bloomers, prune after blooming. Also, some shrubs are not overly winter-hardy and pruning them now can leave them more exposed to the cold temperatures. For this reason, do not prune plants like; ceanothus (California Lilac), escallonia and lavatera; for these wait until after the middle of March.

Dormant Spray (Dormant Oil and Lime Sulphur) fruit trees and roses between December and early February 2 to 3 times when the plants have no leaves on them. Be careful of very early leaf buds on roses as these can easily be damaged. If your roses are already growing leafy new growth it is too late for Dormant Spray.

Raking leaves, cleaning out annuals that have finished and tidying the veggie patch should still be done if you have not had a chance yet.

Prepare an area in late fall for your sweet peas for next year. Dig a ditch and fill it with leafy matter from disease-free foliage that you may be cleaning out of your veggie garden or annual bed. Cover with soil and when you go to plant your sweet peas you will have the perfect mixture of decomposed leaves and soil in which to plant. Sweet peas love this!

And lastly....dream it, plan it, design it and get ready for a brand new year in the garden.

Shauna Lambeth ©

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