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December is no time to rest for Central Coast gardeners

Brussel sprouts in field.
uc regents
master gardener 12-1-10
Brussel sprouts in field. uc regents master gardener 12-1-10

Q. I’d like slow down and take a little break from gardening. Is there something I need to do before winter?Carol Frane, Cambria

A. On the Central Coast, we are blessed with a temperate climate. The good news is our gardens grow year around. The bad news is our gardens grow year around. Gardeners have little time to rest. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring our gardens for too long but a little break may be well deserved.

It is important to do some chores while plants rest. Prune deciduous trees and shrubs now or in January. Thin the tree canopy to reduce wind resistance. Remove dying or diseased branches and ones that cross or are crowded. Following up with a dormant spray may be appropriate for pests and diseases you observed this past year. Wait to prune your grapevines until January or February to avoid early budbreak and freeze damage. Be on the lookout for snails and slugs. They’re coming!

When frost is predicted, move container plants under eaves, or indoors. For plants that cannot be moved, make a frame and cover with burlap. If it’s been a dry fall, you may need to irrigate now, because plants that are water stressed during freezing temperatures are more likely to be damaged.

Coastal gardeners can plant bulbs like tulips, hyacinth, and crocus that have been refrigerated for six weeks and cool-season transplants like calendula, coreopsis, Shasta daisy, larkspur, gaillardia, hollyhock, and California poppy.

Begin to harvest winter vegetables like brussel sprouts and broccoli. Artichokes, rhubarb and other bare root vegetables may be planted now. In colder climates, plant, then cover roots with 8-12” of mulch. There’s a good selection of bare root roses and fruit trees available now, so take advantage.

Replenish mulch in beds to keep soil from eroding and adjust automatic watering systems according to rain prediction. On those upcoming rainy days, sit back and imagine the possibilities and be grateful for what it provides for you.

Got a Gardening Question? Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners Web site at groups.ucanr.org/slomg/ or e-mail mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu.