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See Past Gardening Tips Here


2014 Gardening Tips
December Bareroot season is just beginning
plus Gardening Tips for December
November Sheet Mulching
plus Gardening Tips for November
October Planning your Garden
plus Gardening Tips for October
September Things to Consider When you Want to Plant a Tree
plus Gardening Tips for September
August Watch out for Wasps while Gardening
July It’s not too Late to Plant Sunflowers
plus Gardening Tips
June Irrigation - Do it Yourself or Hire Out
plus Gardening Tips

Know your Foe
plus Gardening Tips

April Have you Checked your Fencing?
plus What to Plant
March Article: Mulching
Tips: Weeding takes Top Priority this Month
plus What to Plant
February Buy Summer Flowering Blubs Now
plus What to Plant
January Article: What is Bare-root Season?
Tips: Rose Pruning, Sweet Peas and More
plus What to Plant

2014 Gardening Tips



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  • Bareroot season is just beginning; berries and Rhubarb are in and fruit trees are just around the corner. If you haven’t cultivated the area where you will be planting your fruit trees consider doing it now before the soil is saturated by the rains.
  • Spring flowering bulbs can still be planted this month as long as the soil is workable.
  • Remember that Daphne that you wanted to buy last year but didn’t get to the nursery in time before they all sold out? December is a good month to shop for shrubs like Daphne and the sweet fragrance of the blooms will be welcome in early spring. Daphne enjoys great drainage so make sure to amend your clay soil with some aged compost; sandy soil will benefit from an addition of compost too.
  • It’s time again to prune Wisteria to 2 or 3 buds from the framework branches. You can usually tell if the buds are flower buds (fat) or vegetative buds (thin and flush to the stem). Wisteria vines get immensely heavy over time so pruning out some of the weight and keeping your vine as controlled as you can will be help eliminate future problems. Contact Mary when you are ready for some pruning tutoring.
  • If your soil is still workable (not completely soggy from rain) then you can still plant any of the frost hardy trees, shrubs and perennials that you’ve been meaning to add to your garden.
  • Bermuda grass may look dead this month but it’s just dormant waiting to return next spring with vigor. Dig out as much as you can now to save yourself extra work in spring.
  • Protect Cymbidiums from snails and slugs. Also, protect any newly planted or newly emerging plants from snails, slugs, earwigs and sowbugs.
  • If you have dormant fruit trees or roses you may want to spray with dormant horticultural oil this month to kill overwintering insects and fungal spores. Be sure to read the directions because some sprays need to be applied when the outdoor temperature is above a certain degree. Also, wear protection for your eyes and long sleeves etc. even if the product is considered ‘organic’. Check with your locally owned nursery for the right dormant spray to use for your plants. Mary mostly uses Neem oil for her roses but not everyone has good luck with Neem.
  • Continue to cut off the spent flowers (with the stem) of Pansy, Iceland Poppies and other winter annuals to encourage more flowers.

Planting Suggestions for December:           

  • Perennials-Cyclamen and Primroses
  • Annuals-Breadseed Poppies, Iceland Poppies, Pansies, Nigella damascene (seeds)
  • Trees and Shrubs-Bundle up and go out to see what locally owned nurseries have to offer



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  • Want to get rid of your lawn with the least amount of effort? This is the perfect time of year to do sheet mulching to smother the grass instead of renting a sod remover or digging it out. Sheet mulching uses cardboard to help smother the grass and mulch and winter rains to help condition the soil so that you can plant your new garden design in spring. Call Mary for more information at 707-545-6863.
  • If you like fruit trees and there is a special variety you are looking for, order your bareroot fruit trees now from your local nursery. Bareroot plants start arriving in local nurseries in January. If you know where you will be planting your bareroot plants you can prepare the soil now while the soil is moist but not soggy. You can add compost amendment and/or weed and turn over the soil in that area.
  • Plant sweet pea seeds starting this month for oodles of blooms in spring!! Sweet peas like rich, well draining soil and a sturdy trellis with thin wires to climb on. You’ll need to protect from snails, slugs, earwigs and sowbugs. Sweet peas are a ‘cool season annual’ so they love the cold weather!
  • Cut back to basal growth (new foliage at the base of plant) plants such as, Oregano, Aster, Lobelia cardinalis and Monarda. When you are ready to learn more about how to care for your plants contact Mary for a consultation.
  • Leave fuchsias unpruned to allow them to go dormant.
  • Continue to plant cool season annuals. Remember to protect the plants from snails, slugs, sowbugs and earwigs. Since it’s getting later in the planting season, consider planting 4- inch plants instead of six-packs. The 4-inch plants will have a larger rootball to help them become established in your garden.
  • Wildflower seeds can be sown once the rains arrive in earnest. You will have better success if you first weed the area and keep it weeded once the wildflower seeds start to germinate.
  • Make gardening more fun and easy by preparing your planting area before you purchase your plants. You’ll be able to come right home and plant all your babies instead of risking losing them because you run short of time.
  • Resist the urge to go out and prune every plant in your garden. Lilacs, Rhododendrons, Forsythias, Camellias, Ribes and many other winter/spring bloomers are pruned just after their flowers fade.
  • Snails and other plant eaters love to hide out under fallen leaves; continue to clean up fallen leaves from around vulnerable and newly planted plants and bulbs. You can allow fallen leaves to biodegrade around plants that are not susceptible to damage by these pests.
  • Your blueberry plants will appreciate a nice layer of acidic mulch such as the leaf drop from redwood trees (move aside the larger leaves and collect the more decomposed humus underneath). Keep mulch about 6 inches from the trunk of the blueberry shrub.

To read more tips for November see the archives.

Planting Suggestions for November

  • Bulbs: Ranunculus, Hyacinths, Freesia, Daffodil, Dicentra spectabilis and all other spring flowering bulbs, tubers and corms
  • Annuals: Calendula, Pansy, Iceland Poppies, Primroses, Breadseed poppies
  • Shrubs and Trees: Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’



In many ways, gardening is like shopping for clothes. For instance, do you ever want to buy a new swimsuit in September (when it’s really hot here in Sonoma County) but realize that swimsuits were in the stores beginning way back in the cold of April? By the time you think of getting the suit, if you can find a store that has suits, the choices are dismal. Stores stock most of their clothes for the next season not for the current season. This is why, when you’re cold in February it’s hard to find a turtleneck sweater because the stores are stocking spring dresses!

The same thing can happen with gardening in Sonoma County; when it’s hot in September it’s time to prepare for the winter vegetable garden and replace summer flowering annuals, like cosmos and zinnias, with winter flowering annuals, like pansies and Iceland poppies. The winter annuals can get a good head start on growing their roots while the soil still holds the warmth from summer weather.

Trees, shrubs and natives can go in at this time of year too so that the winter rains can help the roots grow in the nice moist soil! All that’s needed is to keep the new plantings watered until the rains arrive in earnest and then, for months, there’s no need to think about watering unless there is a dry spell. By November, it’s time to think about what fruits and roses to buy at the beginning of bareroot season in January before the selection dwindles down to nothing. Unlike the end of season sales at clothing stores, bareroot season is like a ‘reverse sale’ buying bareroot saves money; one would pay several times more later in the season for the same plant that is potted up and sold in a container.

Bulbs are another project that helps if you plan ahead. Bulbs that will be planted in fall can and (for best selection) should be ordered early in the summer months; most mail order companies will then ship at the right time of year for the bulbs to be planted. The same holds true for other bulbs; spring planted, summer blooming bulbs are ordered in fall. Paying attention to what bulbs are coming in at the local nurseries will pay off with the best selection; purchase the bulbs early and keep them dry and cool for planting out when the time is right.

Another way that gardening is like clothes shopping is when it comes to design. Whether one is putting together an outfit or a garden the principles of good design are the same. Would you ever wear all your jewelry at one time? Then why put out every single garden art piece you own in one area of your garden? Like a special necklace on a solid colored background, a single focal point plant backed by a mass planting of a single, low growing species can be very calming for a meditative garden. On the flip side, wearing a bright colored dress of oranges and yellows with solid taupe shoes and belt would be like having the almost confetti like colors of flowers in the English style garden grounded by some large pots of a solid color placed where the eye can rest. Of course, you can just have fun in your garden design like the newest fad in clothing and then switch out the design the next planting season if you want something more classic.

2011 Tips

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  • Do you feel like getting out in your garden this month and pruning everything? Many plants need to be left alone at this time of year and not be asked to produce lots of new growth from fresh pruning cuts. Your energy would be better used by pulling weeds and mulching your garden. When you would like help learning which plants to prune and which plants to leave alone contact Mary for a consultation.
  • Buy wildflower seeds now! For best selection shop now and save the seeds to plant out once the rains have moistened the soil.
  • If you would like to add some autumn interest to your garden, shop now for trees and shrubs while they are showing their rich reds, oranges and yellows.
  • Containers can now be planted with lots of winter interest plants. There’s no reason to look outside this winter and see only dried up or dormant plants when pansies, Iceland poppies, cyclamen and primroses can be looking back at you instead.
  • Some perennial weeds like Bermuda grass are going dormant now but once the rains come winter annual weeds will start popping up! If you plan to plant wildflower seeds spend some time weeding the planting area first. For best results, weed the area, water to germinate more of the weed seeds, weed again and then plant your wildflower seeds. Better yet, weed now and then wait for the rains to germinate the annual weed seeds and then weed again before planting. At the Demo Garden Mary sows wildflower seeds in November.
  • Many local nurseries are having their fall sales. You can find some great plants for up to 40% off the regular price. If you have hard, dry soil in your garden make it easy on you, the soil and your new tree or shrub by keeping the plant in the container until the rains have moistened the soil enough to be easily workable. Remember to keep the container plant watered. If you would like to learn more about how, when and what to plant contact Mary.
  • It’s not you. If your Mandevilla vine, Lantana, Bougainvillea, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ (purple fountain grass) do not survive our Sonoma County winter; these are all frost tender plants. In general Sonoma County gardens can experience frost days from Halloween (October 30) to tax day (April 15). In the Demo Garden we have frost into the beginning of May each year.
  • For more October tips view the archives.

Planting Suggestions for October

  • Bulbs: Freesia, Anemone, Alliums, Ranunculus (and all spring flowering bulbs)
  • Container Plants: Asparagus ‘Meyeri’, Cyclamen, Pansies, Satureja douglassii (Yerba Buena-good for spilling over rim of container), flowering cabbage, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass), Sedum ‘Angelina’
  • Ground Cover: Rubus rolfei, Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’, Sedum ‘Angelina’