December

Clean your gardening tools. Wash off the soil, dry them, sharpen them, and then apply a light coating of oil. Here’s link to a 49 second video that shows a neat trick for cleaning tools. If you want to learn to clean your own pruners and loppers, watch this video from the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County,

Plant bulbs.There’s still time to plant garlic and spring-flowering bulbs if you haven’t already done so.

Be prepared for sudden drops in temperature. Fully tender plants should be brought inside under cover – a frost free greenhouse, a conservatory, a porch, basically anywhere where the plants can continue to get light but avoid the frost and harshest of the winter weather.  Half-hardy plants should also be brought inside if possible, but if it isn’t, give them a good covering of mulch to protect them. A good layer of leaves, leaf mold, compost or straw will suffice for perennials that have died down, however, for larger plants, use a heavy crop cover. You can wrap containers that might freeze with bubble wrap and place them close to the house when they will be sheltered.

Mulch your beds with shredded leaves, compost or aged manure. Let the worms and frosts break up the clods of soil and pull the nutrients down into the soil.

If you haven’t already done so, clean out the greenhouse thoroughly. Wash the glass, the floor and the staging with a mild disinfectant to kill any overwintering pests and diseases.

Water “undercover” plants. If you have plants undercover (under the eaves of your home or on a covered deck like mine) don’t forget to water them. However, do so sparingly as plants require less water at this time of year whilst they are largely dormant. Overwatering can lead to rotting of the plant.

Protect outdoor taps, pipes and hoses. Turn off your outside taps to prevent freezing. Drain hoses, water timers, watering cans and spray nozzles and put them away where they won’t freeze. Freezing temperatures can also damage bird baths, fountains and pots. Empty bird baths and fountains, and either flip them over so ice can’t form in the bowls or cover them once they are drained.

Plan next year’s garden. Nothing is nicer than sitting by a fire with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and next year’s seed catalogue. We’re expecting the 2019 West Coast Seed catalogue in our stores some time in December – it makes a great stocking stuffer, by the way. Browse your favourite gardening magazines – another great stocking stuffer – and dream about next year.

Don’t forget the birds. The wild birds that populate your garden really need your help now and over the next few months. Natural food supplies are at their lowest and water sources can freeze.  Different types of birds prefer different types of foods, so put out a range of bird foods including mixed seed, niger seed, sunflower hearts, nuts, and suet.  Since our Anna’s hummingbirds stay here throughout the winter, keep your hummingbird feeders full and frost-free.

Give yourself a pat on the back for all the wonderful gardening you did this year and start to dream about next season.