December gardening and a few gift ideas for the green thumbs on your list

The vacation season is a great time to yard and to indulge the gardeners you know. Looking for a backyard gift? My beloved gifts to give and to get include:

  • Uncommon plants
  • A strong trowel
  • Pruning shears that suit the hand perfectly
  • A climate station to keep track of rainfall and temperature
  • Sturdy, soft gloves
  • A sharp weeding scythe
  • Hand lotion
  • A worm compost technique — with worms, of system!


Here’s the predicament: The warm, dry climate signifies we require to h2o extra frequently than in a “normal” 12 months. Drought signifies there’s considerably less drinking water offered. What to do? Change to inline drip irrigation. Inline drip is essentially very long adaptable tubing with emitters embedded inside the lines. Lay it out in a grid on the surface area of just about every yard mattress so every single mattress gets wetted evenly and drinking water penetrates down to the roots. Go over the irrigation and the bed with at the very least 3 inches of mulch to lower evaporation. It is the great resolution.

Even while the weather conditions is dry, the sunlight is lower in the sky, so crops will need drinking water much fewer usually than at the peak of summer season.

How prolonged to h2o? Operate your irrigation procedure, 1 zone at a time. As every single zone finishes, adhere your finger all the way down into the soil, as deep as you can. Is it wet all the way down? If not, run the irrigation all over again. Determine out how extensive it requires for the water to achieve down to the roots. Which is how you determine out the run time for each zone.

Are you watering generally plenty of? Or also usually? Do the Canary Take a look at to determine out how normally to operate each individual zone. As you operate each individual zone, mark the day on your calendar. Then transform the zone off. Look at that spot of your garden for the to start with plant to have droopy leaves (that’s the canary) and check out your calendar. Operate the water just short of the time it took for the to start with plant to droop. Use this details to set how generally every irrigation zone runs. Don’t assume them all to be the very same. So, if it took 12 days for the first plant to droop, run that zone each individual 11 days. If it drooped following three months, operate the zone each and every 20 times. Where the 1st plant drooped right after a 7 days, operate that zone every single six times, and so on.

Be confident to operate your irrigation the working day right before Santa Ana winds are anticipated. Saturating the soil protects plants from desiccation.

If you however use overhead spray, it is time to swap to inline drip. Inline drip — not the kind of drip with specific emitters at the end of slim tubing — is the most effective and productive irrigation obtainable.

Take care of drinking water

Water cisterns permit you to capture a significant volume of water and use it in excess of time. Some cisterns are put in over floor, others are buried underground and out of sight. These systems are produced of sturdy resources like concrete, fiberglass and polyethylene.

H2o cisterns can maintain hundreds to hundreds of gallons. Select a dimensions primarily based on the dimension of your roof. From an inch of rainfall, the common generate is 62 gallons of h2o from each and every 100 square feet of roof. Immediate the downspouts from the roof to the cistern.

As you put together planting beds, form the soil to incorporate dips and swales to seize drinking water so it can percolate into the surrounding soil. Lender water now to make it out there for lengthy-time period withdrawal by plants’ roots in spring.

If you have a place that floods regularly, reconfigure the contours, install a French drain, lay out sandbags, etcetera.

Empty drinking water that accumulates in dishes under potted vegetation, buckets, containers and other spots where the consistent moisture can drown plant roots or become a mosquito nursery.

Clean up rain gutters. When clogged rain gutters overflow, the slipping drinking water destroys in-ground plants down below. Compost the particles or use it as mulch.

Soon after the rain, stay off the soil for two times. Soaked soil compacts simply, so relatively than dig or weed or plant, do chores like repotting crops, cleansing your toolshed and setting up for spring.

Update ornamentals

Just one of the most critical strategies to control water is by meticulously deciding on and handling your plants. This is THE time to prepare and put into action a drought-tolerant tactic.

Appear for vegetation with narrow leaves, tiny leaves, succulent leaves, fuzzy leaves, silvery leaves, difficult leathery leaves, and/or needles. These diversifications assistance crops preserve h2o in the warmth.

Indigenous oaks, toyon and lemonade berry are among the the most common and sturdiest of the natives to use as qualifications trees and shrubs. In opposition to their deep eco-friendly, plant silver-leaved succulent Dudleya rosettes, yellow flowering bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), and lavender-flowered chaparral mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus).

From Australia, plant flame tree Brachychiton acerifolius, any of the excellent, flower-crammed Grevillea — they are all hummingbird magnets — and black and yellow flowered black coral pea vine (Kennedia nigricans, hard to obtain but worthy of the search).

Each individual garden wants drought-tolerant trees — as lots of as feasible. Strawberry tree Arbutus ‘Marina’ has magnificent shreddy mahogany-coloured bark with shiny eco-friendly leaves and pink bouquets in spring. Gold medallion tree (Cassia leptophylla) is a narrow, medium-dimension tree with bright yellow bouquets that convert into very long, festive eco-friendly bean pods. Tecate cypress (Hesperocyparus forbesii) is a Southern California native that is uncommon in habitat but commonly accessible in nurseries. It is a far, far improved preference than Italian cypress.

Succulent aloes set on a lovely display this time of calendar year. One particular of my favorites is Aloe rubraviolaceae, a minimal-escalating rosette type Aloe whose teal leaves are edged in soft rose. Every single rosette attributes a solitary, tall candelabrum of stout, poker-style flowers that bloom purple-orange.

Attempt some unique succulents in your landscape: Furcraea mcdougalii grows up to 20 ft tall. It has a tall grey trunk, atop which it seems to be like an olive-green agave. Furcraea bedinghausii is one more huge this just one grows up to 15 feet tall with a trunk topped in tall, blue-inexperienced blades. Furcraea foetida is a shorty, only 3 to 5 feet tall and 3 feet broad, with adaptable, vibrant inexperienced blades. Its cousin, Furcraea foetida, has pleasant yellow and environmentally friendly stripes.

Take a look at your favorite nursery for bare-root blueberries by now readily available. Reserve bare-root fruit trees and shrubs that get there subsequent month: pomegranates, figs, peaches, apples, nectarines, pears, apricots and a lot more.

Put together for chilly

Even though we don’t get tough frosts, plants from coast to mountains can go through frost hurt on a cold evening.

Defend chilly-sensitive crops like Plumeria, bromeliads, some kinds of succulents, etc. Shift potted vegetation beneath the eaves or underneath low branches of evergreen trees. Protect in-floor vegetation with floating row address (NOT plastic and not a bed sheet). Use clothespins to safe the go over in spot.

Do not reduce off the broken parts of a frosted plant — they protect the relaxation of the plant from the up coming freezes. Wait around right until February or March, when the danger of frost has disappeared.

Fruit trees

This is the most critical upkeep time for deciduous fruit trees like peaches, nectarines, pluots, apriums, apples and some others that fall their leaves in winter season.

Amongst now and the stop of January:

Strip leaves off the branches of stone fruits, pears and apples if they don’t slide off on their personal. Leaves can be contaminated with fungus and other pathogens that overwinter. Really don’t compost them. Rake them up instead, then deliver them off in the greenwaste.

Prune deciduous fruit trees, getting care NOT to slice off the fruiting wood. Distinctive types of fruit trees sort fruits on a distinctive areas of their branches. Apples, for instance, mature brief spurs alongside the branches. Those people spurs make flowers and fruits. Pomegranates and figs fruit at the conclude of branches. Pluots fruit along the duration of the branch. Know what the fruit is right before you slash.

My beloved pruning guide is “How to Prune Fruit Trees” by R. Sanford Martin. It’s a vintage!

Following pruning, spray fruit trees to eliminate overwintering pests and conditions. Spray just about every treatment method as soon as, wait around two weeks, spray once more, wait around two weeks and spray a 3rd time.

  • Spray apple and pear trees with mineral-based mostly horticultural oil to suffocate scale, whiteflies, mealy bugs and other little pests that overwinter in the bark.
  • Spray stone fruits (peach, nectarine, plum, and so on.) with liquid copper to get rid of the fungus accountable for the dreaded peach leaf curl. Spray mineral-centered horticultural oil, as well.

Each time you spray, coat all branches and trunks, from recommendations to base. The better the protection, the extra your trees are safeguarded.

If you have tons of fruit trees, think about a battery-driven sprayer. These a sprayer is a lot more expensive than a hand pump but is a lot easier to use, much more rapidly, and considerably far more productive.

Prune set up ornamentals

Winter season is time to prune decorative trees and shrubs. Use a certified arborist to clear away weak or dead branches, verify for borer infestations, structural integrity, and so on. If you don’t have a favored qualified arborist, obtain a person at

If you do the pruning, sharpen your pruning instruments initially so they make clean up, healthy cuts that never shred the wooden.

Do the job clean. Disinfect pruning shears, saws, loppers and other slicing tools right before and among vegetation to stay clear of spreading health conditions and pests from one plant to the next. I use spray family disinfectant.

Begin pruning by first removing dead branches, weak wood and crossing branches. Then prune for shape.

Make cuts in the suitable place. Observe every department to exactly where it attaches to the trunk or to the following much larger branch. Notice the inflammation at the foundation of the branch? That is named the branch collar. When you slash, slice up to the department collar, leaving no stubs behind.

In no way major a tree. If a tree is way too tall, switch it with 1 (or two or a few) that does not develop that tall.

Prune, then spray roses with horticultural oil. Never prune shrub roses down to nubs. The additional branches, the extra bouquets, so let your rose bushes grow big.

Every time you end pruning, spray your equipment, wipe them dry and lubricate them with mineral oil in advance of storing.

Care for potted plants

It’s poinsettia time! Remove the extravagant foil as quickly as you get the poinsettia dwelling. Make confident its pot has drainage holes. If it does not, transfer the plant to a new pot with drainage. Place it in a brightly lit area absent from the heater vent and absent from a cold window. Water more than enough to maintain the soil damp but not moist. Don’t fertilize till immediately after the holiday seasons.

Observe potted crops. Come to feel the potting soil just about every several days and water in advance of the soil receives as well dry. A humidifier can help continue to keep indoor air moist and vegetation from drying out.

Management pesky very little black flies. These fungus gnats are attracted to moist natural make a difference in the potting soil. They are effortless to regulate without chemicals or sprays if you 1) water significantly less (your crops will be good) and 2) include the surface of the potting soil with a ½- to 1-inch-thick layer of tiny pebbles, aquarium rocks, even marbles. They sort a barrier the flies can not penetrate.

Edible gardens

All summertime veggie plants should be taken out by now. Even if your tomato or pepper carries on to create, future calendar year it won’t be practically as effective and vigorous as this 12 months. Pull them out and start again in spring.

Right before you replant pots or raised beds, insert compost to deliver the soil degree back again to the top rated. Sprinkle in earthworm castings and vegetable fertilizer.

Plant winter root vegetable seeds (not seedlings) now: beets, turnips, radishes, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips.

Plant greens and cabbage family members vegetation from seed or seedling: lettuce, spinach, kohlrabi, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and extra.

Plant annual parsley, dill and cilantro from seed. These once-a-year herbs do very best in vegetable gardens.

Plant perennial oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage and rosemary from 4-inch or 1-gallon pots into a long lasting place in the backyard garden. Given that they are all waterwise Mediterranean natives, plant them in decorative yard beds.

To harvest greens like lettuce, kale, spinach, bok choy and tatsoi, basically slice off as a lot of leaves as you require and permit the plants continue on to grow. Harvest herbs the very same way.


How thick is your garden’s mulch? Purpose for a minimum of 3 inches over every single back garden mattress. Be guaranteed irrigation lines are underneath the mulch, not on prime.

Mulch succulents with rock or gravel. Mulch nonsucculents with aged woody mulch or with contemporary wood chips that are smaller than an inch. More substantial clean wooden chips can carry fatal borers into your backyard garden. Aged wood chips are not problematic.

Drought-evidence garden!

Make sure you sign up for me at 10 a.m. on Dec. 6 for “Drought-Proof Your Garden.” This webinar is cost-free, but preregistration is necessary at

Sterman is a waterwise garden designer and writer and the host of “A Rising Passion” on KPBS television. Extra information and facts is at and