Home & Garden

Enjoying the crisp days in December gardens

December and January are the months to prune deciduous fruit trees. Think about air circulation as you snip branches.
December and January are the months to prune deciduous fruit trees. Think about air circulation as you snip branches.

Romantic snow scenes dominate our television screens now, and while the Central Coast may not bring up visions of walking through the woods on a snowy night, we do have a nip of frost in the air. The aroma of fallen leaves and sea salt invokes our memories of holidays past.

It’s a good time to just walk around, sense the crisp air and wander off in thought about your spring garden.

But for the present, there are a few things you can do. Turn off or adjust automatic rain sprinklers so they don’t over-water — let the rain, shorter days and cooler weather do the job. Organize garden supplies; sharpen and condition shovels and tools so they’re ready for spring.

Late December and January is a good time to trim deciduous trees (use clean, sharp pruning shears for this task). Remove diseased, dead or injured wood. Think about air circulation and wind resistance to mildly restructure your tree shape. Make sure crowded or crossing branches are removed. Consult a Master Gardener or visit http://unacr.org/sites/gardenweb/Landscape_Trees for proper pruning techniques. Peaches and other stone fruit trees may need a fungicide to avoid disease problems next spring.

Make sure to move tender container plants into safe areas away from frost damage. Under frost weather warnings, make sure susceptible plants are covered with a permeable material such as burlap or a sheet that is supported enough so that it does not touch the plant. When freeze warnings are announced in your local weather report, you need to move your plants to a warmer area such as inside your house or garage.

This is also the time to plant bare-root plants, including roses. Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, crocus, and hyacinth can be planted after being chilled. In coastal areas, you can plant alyssum, coreopsis, forget-me-not, hollyhock and lavatera.

As December ends, use leftover garland and tree trimmings for mulch on top of the soil around acid loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, ferns, rhododendrons, and living holiday trees you plant for future holidays.


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 on Wednesday 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 http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/or e-mail mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu