Q: Gardening books say to clean up the garden, then sit back and relax. Is this true? — Donna Hoppe, Cambria
A: Not quite. Those of us who live on the Central Coast don’t have a “long, dark winter” where we kick back, put our feet up and peruse seed catalogs while we wait for spring. Our climate produces edibles and flowers yearround, and our gardens need attention.
After you finish pruning, clean up dead leaves and debris, spread new mulch and plant some winter color. November is a good time to put out cool-season annuals like Calendula, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Dianthus, candytuft, Iceland poppies, Nemesia, snapdragons, pansies, and Johnny-jump-ups. Purchase tulips, crocus and hyacinth bulbs and store them in the crisper of your refrigerator in a bed of slightly moist sawdust to give them chill time. The nurseries should be fully stocked with bulbs right now.
If they have become too woody, consider “shovel pruning” and replace them. Experiment with a few new drought-tolerant plants. Keep soil around them moist until the rains come.
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Plant some easy-to-grow vegetables and herbs. Put in garlic bulbs and plant lettuce seeds around them. The lettuce will mature and be harvested long before the garlic is ready to dig up in early summer. Put out starts of broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and leeks.
Harvest pumpkins when the stems shrivel and turn brown. Store winter squash (so called because it stores well in the winter) in a cool place and enjoy throughout the coming season.
Gardening is one big science experiment. Review and evaluate the results of your year of gardening. What thrived, what varieties performed well, and what might you change in the coming year? Dream a little and enjoy your bounty.