Gardening Tasks for the Winter Months
With holiday obligations behind us, we can now focus on our winter gardening tasks again. And although the winter months don’t lend themselves to planting trees, and shrubs, there is still a lot that can be done, especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our climate is Mediterranean in some places, and more like the Pacific Northwest in others. Some plants will grow in the winter, but others you may want to hold off on until Spring. Here are a few gardening tips to keep you active during the winter. Some are quite obvious and some you may not have thought of. Let’s focus on outside gardening first.
Outdoor Gardening Tasks
Plant and/or Sow Vegetables
We are blessed to live in an area where we can plant and sow a host of vegetables. Growing your own vegetables has become increasingly popular. Partially due to COVID with people under stay-at-home orders, but partially also because many take a renewed interest in their health and what they are consuming. In January you can directly sow Arugula, Cilantro, Collards, Leek, Kale, Mustard, Parsley, and Radishes. During February, you can sow all of the previously mentioned plus Beets, Carrots, Fava Beans, Lettuce, Peas, and even Potato (using seed potatoes from a nursery). You can also plant starter veggies that are being offered in your local nursery.
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Plant Winter Flowering Plants
Cyclamen, Pansies, Snapdragons, Hellebores, and Primulas for instance do really well in most of the Bay area’s gardens during the winter. I love to surround myself with lots of Primulas and Cyclamens because their bright colors cheer me up every time I step into my garden. Plus, they are so easy to grow and come back year after year.
Mulch and Watch for Girdling Roots
Mulching during winter is recommended to enhance water retention and heat around the base of your plants or shrubs. However, do not pile mulch on too high around the bottom of your plants or shrubs. Doing so could potentially result in “girdling roots.”
Girdling is an unfortunate phenomenon when the roots of a shrub or a tree emerge from the soil, cutting into the tree’s trunk. Such an occurrence limits the movement of water and nutrients from the roots, curtailing its growth and development. Poor mulching techniques also lead to the presence of pests and vermin that might potentially ruin your shrubs and young trees.
Continue to fertilize Camellias, Rhododendrons, and Azaleas to encourage plenty of blooms during the winter.
Protect Potted Plants from Winter
This is especially important for the more tropical varieties such as Hibiscus and Bougainvillea. If they are in a pot you might consider bringing them indoors.
Watch Out for Vermin and Insect Infestations
Rats and mice love to nest in piles of fallen leaves. So be sure to rake them up. Also, keep your eyes open for Termites, Ants, Beetles, and Stink Bugs.
Now is a good time to utilize the more sunny, warmer days to make repairs, erect, and maintain windbreak fences to protect your outdoor plants from harsh winds and add support to trees that need a little assistance.
Continue to Mow Your Lawn as Needed
Unlike some other areas in the US where grass goes completely dormant, we still see some growth during the winter month. I recommend that you continue to mow at least every other week or as needed. Keeping the grass shorter over the winter will help reduce the chance of fungus and keeps your garden look good.
Continue to Water
Unfortunately as of now, we need to continue to water at a reduced rate. Be sure to keep your seeds and seedlings moist. Once we get more rain on a consistent basis you can turn off your sprinklers and let nature do its thing.
Indoor Plant Chores During the Winter
- Give houseplants as much light as possible as days grow shorter
- Hold off on fertilizing indoor plants until spring
- Provide houseplants with increased humidity; mist often or place the houseplant over a tray of moist pebbles
- As houseplants grow more slowly in winter, increase the time between waterings but do not cut back on the amount of water
- On frigid nights, protect indoor plants from freezing; move them away from the windows or cover glass with thick newspaper or cardboard
- Clean leaves of large and smooth-leaved houseplants like dracaena, philodendron, ficus etc.
We hope you have found this article helpful. Check our other blog articles for more useful gardening information.
Happy Gardening from the folks of