January Tips: Southern California

Start off your garden year right by laying the foundation for a great garden.


+ enlarge image Learn to plant bare-root trees, shrubs, and roses.

Planting Bare-Root Trees, Shrubs and Roses -- Now is the time to plant bare-root trees and shrubs as well as bare-root roses.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Planting a Bare-Root Rose

When to Plant Trees and Shrubs -- Plant container-grown trees and shrubs. Wait to plant more delicate perennial herbs, perennial flowers, and ground covers until your region's last average frost date, or check with your local garden center to find out the best planting time.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Last Average Frost Date

  • If you haven't already, fill in bare spots with cool-season annuals, such as pansies, snapdragons, calendulas, foxgloves, Iceland poppies, linaria, and stock, as long as temperatures are seldom lower than 35 and seldom higher than 80 or 85 F.
  • Plant bare-root fruits and vegetables such as artichokes, strawberries, and rhubarb as they become available in nurseries.
  • Plant pre-chilled tulips, crocuses, and hyacinths for spring bloom.

Pruning Roses -- Prune deciduous fruit trees and also prune roses. (In the very hottest regions, you may need to prune your roses back to just 6 to 8 inches to stimulate new growth.) Also spray your roses with horticultural oil to prevent insect problems later.

Pruning Roses

Pruning Trees and Shrubs -- Prune trees and prune shrubs. Be careful with flowering trees and shrubs -- you don't want to trim off developing buds! Wait to trim off frost damage until all danger of frost is passed.

Pruning Trees

Pruning Shrubs

  • Otherwise, do trim late-summer or fall-blooming trees and shrubs, including abelia, mimosa, cassia, oleander, crape myrtle, princess flower (also called tibouchina), and golden rain tree. Otherwise, as a rule of thumb, prune flowering shrubs and trees within a month after they stop blooming.
  • Now is an ideal time to prune evergreens.
  • Deadhead camellia blossoms and pick up fallen blossoms to prevent disease problems.

Start Seeds Indoors -- In low desert areas and other places where you're six to eight weeks away from the last average frost date, start seeds indoors for warm-season annuals, such as tomatoes, marigolds, peppers, cosmos, zucchini, impatiens, salvia, basil, and others. Otherwise, wait until all chance of freezing temperatures has passed and buy established seedlings at the garden center.

Start Seeds Indoors

  • Keep up with weeding and watering as needed, especially new plantings.

Lawn Fertilizer -- Fertilize cool-season lawns, that is, lawns planted with ryegrass, bluegrass, and fescue. Apply crabgrass preventer to all lawns now. And try our handy lawn fertilizer calculator so you know exactly how much to buy and apply.

Fertilizer Calculator

  • Take the lawn mower in for a tune-up and blade-sharpening or do it yourself, being sure to change the oil and clean or change the filter as needed. A great tip is to buy an extra mower blade. Blades need to be sharpened three or four times during the growing season, so you can always have one on hand while the other is at the shop -- or on your workbench -- getting sharpened.
  • Resolve to mow your lawn regularly and at the right height. It's the best thing you can do to control weeds and keep grass thick and healthy. Now, during cool weather, mow cool-season lawns such as bluegrass, ryegrasses, or fescues at 2 inches or so. (Raise the mower to 3 inches once the temperatures start hitting the 90s F.) Mow warm-season grasses such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, and zoysia at 2 inches all growing season long.
  • Keep up with the harvest of cool-season crops, such as peas, lettuces, and spinach. It will encourage more production.

Garden Journals -- If you haven't already, start a garden journal or file. Tuck into it names of plants you like, magazine pictures, plant labels and seeds, and anything else that suits your fancy. If you're feeling crafty, make your own journal.

Landscaping and More -- While you're doing your garden planning, check out the entire section on garden planning and landscaping at BHG.com. It covers everything from assessing your landscape needs to putting it down on paper to choosing the best plants for you.

Garden Planning and Landscaping

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