Wet Winter Garden Tips for March 2017

Standing water and slick conditions inhibit drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Heavy skies press down on us in a study of 50 shades of grey. We pass the time contemplating rain drop sizes and the angle of sheeting down pours. It is hard to imagine working in the garden this blustery winter. But the weeds thrive and prosper. Flower and leaf buds are swelling. Tangled dormant trees and shrubbery beg to be tamed. So grab any fair weather window you can and let’s get to work. Here are a few tips for the intrepid California gardener.

“Saucer Magnolia” by Famartin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

  1. If you have standing water or really boggy, mucky soil in your garden beds you can remedy that problem with compost. Be generous with the compost. Mix it thoroughly into your existing soil if possible. This will improve water retention and drainage. Do this after we have had a few days in a row of dry weather. Top dress all planting beds with mulch to increase absorbency.
  1. Weed now. The soil is soft and cooperative. If you pluck the weeds out before they set fruit, you can recycle them on site in your compost pile rather than outsourcing them in the yard waste bin.
  1. Bare roots and bulbs. We are at the tail-end of bare root season. Scurry over to your favorite nursery and see what they have left it stock. Summer blooming bulbs are available for planting now too.
  1. Prune your dormant trees and shrubs. Remove crossed, crooked, broken and over-reaching branches. Be careful though. Even after a few days of dry weather the conditions in and around your trees can be slippery. Budget conscious do-it-yourselfers who climb into their trees to reach the high branches should wear a harness, eye protection, gloves and sturdy shoes. Better yet, call a certified arborist or tree care profession to take care of your structural and aesthetic tree pruning.
  1. Get inspired. Walk the neighborhood and see what is blooming now. Maybe you can fit these plants into your own garden for a spot of late winter color for 2018 and beyond. In my part of town Viburnum, Rosemary, Saucer Magnolias, Camellias and Bergenias are spreading floral joy.
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