December Tips: Southern California

Garden must-dos are minimal this month, giving you more time to focus on the holidays.
Finish transplanting flowers.
  • Don't fertilize or water roses this month. They need to harden off for winter. However, in desert areas you may want to give them an occasional drink if you think they need it.
  • This month is a great time to transplant. Just be sure to keep new transplants well-watered if the weather is mild and dry.
  • Finish your planting of pre-chilled spring bulbs, such as tulips and hyacinths.

Planting Bare-Root Trees, Shrubs, and Roses -- Finish planting bare-root trees, shrubs, roses, and vegetables. But hold off planting tropicals until next spring. It's still too cold.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Planting a Bare-Root Rose

Storing Tender Bulbs -- In colder regions (Zones 8 and colder), dig up and store tender bulbs, including tuberous begonias, glads, dahlias, cannas, and others.

Storing Tender Bulbs

  • Protect tender annuals, such as cineraria, by throwing on a sheet or other non-plastic material when frost threatens. In fact, for vegetables, you can cover them indefinitely with any very light landscape fabric and anchor the corners with bricks or stones. It lets in sun and rain, but prevents light frosts from doing any damage. Also, try planting under a tree or overhang to protect plants from frost.

Smart Pruning -- Prune deciduous fruit trees once they've gone dormant and dropped their leaves.

Smart Pruning

  • In those areas where frosts are just an occasional thing, keep plantings well-watered so whenever a freeze threatens, plants are more likely to survive. A "turgid" well-hydrated plant is better-equipped to recover than a dehydrated plant.
  • If a plant is damaged by frost, resist the urge to prune the damaged parts. They may well protect the rest of the plant during the next frost.
  • Cut back dormant grapevines. A bonus: The cuttings make great wreaths!
  • Stimulate wisteria by cutting it back now. Cut back the long, thin branches that appeared this season alongside or entangled with the older wood. Leave two or three buds at the base of the branch.
  • Set out a nice big basket to hold all those garden catalogs that have started arriving already so you can read them after the holidays, at your leisure.
  • If you've overseeded your lawn and there are bare spots, feel free to scatter a bit more seed to fill in. Also, if the weather is warm and dry, you may need to water the lawn.
  • In warmer regions, from now through February, after a killing freeze or a frost, is a good time to move a rose. Transplant it with as much of the roots as possible and keep well-watered.
  • Keep up with the harvest in the veggie garden and plant more, if desired. You can plant artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, greens, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, potatoes, and radishes now.


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