Winter in the garden
By Linda Nowak-Carlson, BriarPatch Floral Buyer
You’ve probably noticed that most of your plants are getting ready for a long winter’s rest. Leaves are falling, perennial foliage is dying back, and critters are looking for the seeds and berries in your garden. If you have winter crops and flowers growing, try to visit them often in order to harvest, and to check for aphids and little green worms. A strong spray of water usually knocks the aphids off, and dropping the worms in soapy water will stop them from becoming mature white moths. Lettuce is not extremely cold-hardy in our area, so it may need to be covered with a frost blanket on cold nights. If you use plastic, be sure it doesn’t come into contact with your plants.
If you haven’t already, you don’t necessarily have to prune everything unless you like a neat, tidy garden. This way your garden will provide some winter food for wildlife, and you’ll also be adding protection and nutrition to the soil. A light cover of plant material over the soil will help prevent rain and wind erosion and provide food for your soil microbes. This material also provides protection for perennial crowns and can be pruned off when you see new growth beginning to emerge in the early spring.
An exception to this would be if you had disease or insects on the leaves. In that case, you would want to rake up leaves or prune plants as soon as they’re dormant. It would be a good idea NOT to add this material to your compost pile. If you’re a lazy composter like I am, the pile won’t get hot enough to kill these organisms. Speaking of compost, it’s hard to keep it warm and cooking during the winter. One way you can try to accomplish this is to keep it damp but not too wet. You may also want to keep a cover over the compost through the cool season and check for dampness periodically.
The ideal fall planting season is over, but if you still have bulbs or garlic, it’s best to get them in before they dry or rot. If you plant in the winter, your plants won’t put on much root growth. The way I see it, though, a plant in the ground will have more insulation against the cold and the soil will act as a water reservoir, and less hand watering will be needed. Of course, this assumes that you’re like me and always have a few plants on hand that need planting.
Winter is the perfect time to plan your garden for next season. If you have more than one bed, remember to rotate them. If you plant the same veggie in the same bed every year, the crop will be more vulnerable to diseases and insects that prefer that plant. Also, different plants use different nutrients in the soil and can cause depletion of those nutrients.
This is the time to make a list of the vegetables and flowers you want to grow next year. Decide if you want to grow your own starts from seed or buy them already started. At BriarPatch Food Co-op we will have a good supply of seeds for late winter and for summer growing as well. In February we plan to have starts for broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and many greens, then we’ll transition to the summer veggies sometime around April. We also try to carry a good selection of California native plants all year.
We are supplied by five primary local growers who do an amazing job. We are so privileged to be working with; Fresh Starts Nursery in Nevada City, Sweet Roots Nursery in Grass Valley, Green Blessings Nursery in Grass Valley, Grizzly Hill Nursery on The Ridge, and K & F Tomatoes in Nevada City.
If there is a particular variety you hope to find, let us know and we’ll see if we can obtain it. If you want more detailed information about any of these topics, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your time in the garden!