I may be a little late for some of this, but I am sure that reviewing cold weather care for Southern California gardeners is never a bad idea. Cold weather care isn’t just about throwing frost cloth over everything, although frost cloth certainly has its place in the arsenal.
I’d like to talk about a few basic things that you can and should do for your garden when it gets this cold. Cold weather is not all that common (we think) in Southern California, but if you’ve been paying attention to weather patterns over the past few years the suburbs of North Los Angeles have been getting cold weather (even below freezing) for a few years now. One year we may get only a couple, but the next we get a week or more. This past December, has been an example of that. We’ve had freeze warnings in Santa Clarita for days. So, what does that mean for you and your garden? It means that it is time to pay attention!
My biggest pet peeve right now with the water restrictions is that many of the water companies have not updated the allowable watering hours to match our weather conditions. It is fine to water early or late in the summer, BUT NOT in the winter.
I have had a client slip on ice and break her arm, and I have seen many plants freeze due to the early morning watering. BAD NEWS either way. I understand that we are not supposed to have run off, so that means that there should be NO water in the streets or on the sidewalk, but let’s be realistic – even the city watering can create run off.
Here are photos of some of the watering practices that I have found while on my morning walks.
So, what can I do to fix it you say? Well, I don’t want to tell you to water outside of the restricted hours but… water as late as you possibly can.
Here are a few more simple tips.
Cold Weather Care Tip One: If anything has frozen already: don’t cut the dead stuff off the plants until it gets warm again. The dead leaves etc protect the crown of your plant and should it get cold again, they will help insulate the new growth that may have begun again due to our legendary temperature swings.
Cold Weather Care Tip Two: Think about adding a nice 3-4″ layer of mulch to all the plants (big time root protection) go for Forest Floor Mulch from Foot Hill Soil or find a nice NATURAL bark mulch (not big chips – more shredded is better) in bags. Don’t get anything that has colorant in it (yuck). I’m actually hoping that you already did this in the fall, but if you haven’t – it is never too late!
Cold Weather Care Tip Three: Cycle water. I know I’m repeating myself, since cycle watering remedies a lot of situations. Want to establish great roots – cycle water. Too hot – cycle water. Sloping conditions – cycle water. Clay soil – cycle water. You get the picture. Cycle water means that you divide your water time up into a few smaller watering times and water more frequently but close together. The soil absorbs, rests, then absorbs more so that the water goes deeper and therefore so do the roots. Cycle water would be 8 am let soak, 8:20 am, let soak, 8:40 am. You should plan your soak in time based on a test run. You may need 30 minutes between or you may only need 15. Cycle watering would NOT be 8am, 2pm, 6 pm. Got it? Use it!
Cold Weather Care Tip Four: You can turn your water off too! Some landscapes don’t need any water at this time. If you know it is going to stay under freezing until 9 am – DON’T water. Our phones have a great hour by hour on them, use it. Also you should feel the soil, and assess your plants. Are you establishing new plants? They need water (but much less if you have mulch down.) Do you just have grass? Probably doesn’t need any water right now, however make sure that you are keeping the trees watered. A long deep water (with a hose) is great. At this time of year once or twice a month should be good.
Cold Weather Care Tip Five: No fertilizer (ever in winter) – we can talk in spring about some interesting things you can add to the soil to build it up (I learn new stuff all the time). AND – no fertilizers ever if you plant natives or if you sheet mulch and plant water wise plants. So, it might behoove you to think about tearing out that lawn and planting a watershed wise garden soon. You will save money on fertilizer, time, and energy and you won’t be polluting our oceans.
Cold Weather Care Tip Six: Think about adding a rain garden to your next project. This will help capture all that El Nino water we’re going to get, and direct it right into your garden. Again, you’ll be less of a polluter by keeping the water from your (dirty) roof in your soil (which can filter pollutants) instead of sending it out to the sea (which can not filter pollutants.)
I hope this helps a little bit – please pay attention to your irrigation timer, you don’t want to freeze and possibly kill your garden. For even more information you can read my post How To Prepare For Frost.
If you would like to create a beautiful water wise garden, consider calling me at 661-917-3521 or visit my website and contact me there.