by Charlene Burgi
I woke this morning and looked out the window to another clear sunny day. Oddly, the song “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” simultaneously popped into my mind. Although the song had an entirely different meaning for songwriter/musician John Fogerty, the title sometimes feels as if it could be our theme song here in the Golden State.
The opening lines of the song—Someone told me long ago, there's a calm before the storm—reminded me of our winter storms that have yet to arrive. This in turn got me thinking about the tasks required to keep our gardens healthy and protected through the winter months. As the song continued to ramble through my head, I gazed out to the 100 cubic yards of wood chips waiting to blanket the planting beds for winter protection. (Yes, I really ordered 100 cubic yards … oh my!)
Organic mulch, as you know, is one of the most important elements you can add to the garden, supporting the health of your plants in many ways. It is the blanket that keeps the roots warm during the cold weather and cool in the summer months. As it breaks down, it feeds the microorganisms in the soil that feed the plants. Additionally, it holds the moisture in the ground for extended periods of time, helping us to save water in times of drought and beyond. And that’s not even to mention the benefit of suppressing weed germination.
There are other garden chores to do before the storms come flooding in. Garden tools require cleaning, oiling and sharpening before pruning season begins. It is also time to review pruning practices for different types of fruit trees. Remember that some fruits or flowers are only borne on new wood, while others are borne on last year’s wood or old wood. Can you tell the difference? There are some good images you can find on websites to help with identification.
Diseased fallen leaves need to be removed from around plants to avoid further infection. And speaking of infections, dormant sprays should be on hand for curbing larvae and unwanted insects. Timing on some of these sprays is important, so stay tuned to learn more as the time draws near.
Meanwhile, get jobs done in the garden while we have these clear sunny days. Plant cover crops to enrich vegetable gardens. When the rains begin, remember to place wide planks down onto the soil to walk upon to prevent soil compaction.
The up-and-coming winter can be a fun time to work in the garden. Make plans for improving areas, creating newly designed living areas and reconfiguring planting areas—instead of thinking it is time to put the garden to bed for a long winter’s nap!