Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Gardener's checklist for winter

What to do in your garden in the winter

JANUARY

  • Observe water runoff during a heavy rain and correct any drainage issues.
  • Protect tender garden plants by covering them on frosty nights. Succulents, citrus, bougainvillea and fuchsias are among the frost-sensitive plants. Use stakes to keep material from touching foliage and remove the coverings when temperatures rise the next day.
  • Buy and plant bare-root fruit and shade trees, roses, berries, vines and shrubs. Bare-root plants are less costly and establish faster than container plants. Avoid planting in soggy soil.
  • Sow seeds for carrots, winter radishes, rhubarb and turnips when heavy rains are not in the forecast.
  • Many deciduous trees, shrubs and vines can be pruned now. Do not prune spring-blooming plants until after they bloom. Consult a pruning guide that lists optimum pruning times for different species.
  • Prune established roses; clean up and remove all cuttings and leaf litter.
  • Spray fruit trees and roses with horticultural oil to control insects. Follow package instructions carefully.
  • Pick off old flowers from camellias and azaleas and clean up dropped flowers to reduce petal blight, a fungal disease. Do not add them to your compost pile.
  • Avoid walking on or working in your garden beds after heavy rains, which can compact the soil.
  • Revitalize your house plants by washing the leaves, inspecting for insects and repotting them if necessary. Only light feeding is needed in winter.
  • For indoor blooms, force narcissus and other bulbs by placing on pebbles or in shallow vases with minimal water.
  • Order seeds for your spring and summer garden.
  • Clean, sharpen and repair garden tools.
  • Organize your tool shed.

FEBRUARY

  • Inspect your irrigation system for leaks and non-functioning emitters and sprayers. Make any needed repairs or changes.
  • Finish planting bare-root plants (trees, roses, shrubs, berries, grapes, artichokes) before they break dormancy.
  • Plant onion sets and potato tubers.
  • Sow seeds of fava beans, beets, carrots, leeks, lettuce and other leafy greens, peas, radish, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.
  • Finish pruning dormant plants. Wait to prune back frost-damaged plants until warmer weather when you see whether they have recovered.
  • Cut back woody shrubs to stimulate new growth. To rejuvenate leggy shrubs, cut to the ground one-third of the oldest stems each year.
  • If needed, apply a final dormant oil spray to fruit trees.
  • Check plants for aphids as the weather warms. Remove infestations with a hard spray of water or insecticidal soap.
  • Continue to clean up old and dropped flowers from camellias and azaleas to reduce petal blight, a fungal disease. Do not add them to your compost pile.
  • Stay on top of weeds. Hand pull them or cut off at the soil line.
  • Order summer-blooming bulbs.
  • Repot cymbidium orchids if they are overfilling their pots.
  • Cut daffodils for indoor bouquets. Include other flowers in the same vase only after allowing daffodils to sit separately in water for at least six hours. This prevents the sticky sap that oozes out of daffodils from clogging the stems of other cut flowers.
  • Trim branches of attractive winter bloomers (quince, flowering currant, forsythia) for indoor decoration.
  • Avoid working in or walking on wet soil.

MARCH

  • Inspect your irrigation system for leaks and non-functioning emitters and sprayers. Make any needed repairs or changes.
  • Start tomato seeds indoors.
  • Sow seeds of fava beans, beets, carrots, leeks, lettuce and other leafy greens, peas, radish, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.
  • Start begonia tubers indoors in flats.
  • Plant summer-blooming bulbs such as agapanthus, canna, gladiolus, lilies, watsonia and dahlias.
  • Apply compost or a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer to trees, shrubs and perennials, especially those that were planted last fall.
  • Fertilize roses, citrus and other spring-flowering plants.
  • Fertilize azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons after they have bloomed.
  • Let the leaves remain in place on spent daffodils and other spring bulbs. Until the foliage dies, it provides nutrients to rebuild the bulb for next year.
  • Handpick snails and slugs after dark or apply a pet-friendly bait.
  • Be diligent about pulling weeds before they set seed. Apply one to three inches of mulch around plants and on bare areas of your garden to suppress weed germination and growth. Mulch also will retain soil moisture as winter rains subside.
  • If you planted a cover crop in fall, chop up the foliage into small pieces and turn under or add the clippings to your compost pile.
  • Replace path mulches that have been washed away by heavy rains.


Contributors:
Faith Brown, Nanette Londeree, Katie Martin, UCCE Placer County Master Gardeners

Resource:
Northern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide
by Katherine Grace Endicott

MARCH

Inspect your irrigation system for leaks and non-functioning emitters and sprayers. Make any needed repairs or changes.

Start tomato seeds indoors.

Sow seeds of fava beans, beets, carrots, leeks, lettuce and other leafy greens, peas, radish, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.

Start begonia tubers indoors in flats.

Plant summer-blooming bulbs such as agapanthus, canna, gladiolus, lilies, watsonia and dahlias.

Apply compost or a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer to trees, shrubs and perennials, especially those that were planted last fall.

Fertilize roses, citrus and other spring-flowering plants.

Fertilize azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons after they have bloomed.

Let the leaves remain in place on spent daffodils and other spring bulbs. Until the foliage dies, it provides nutrients to rebuild the bulb for next year.

Handpick snails and slugs after dark or apply a pet-friendly bait.

Be diligent about pulling weeds before they set seed. Apply one to three inches of mulch around plants and on bare areas of your garden to suppress weed germination and growth. Mulch also will retain soil moisture as winter rains subside.

If you planted a cover crop in fall, chop up the foliage into small pieces and turn under or add the clippings to your compost pile.

Replace path mulches that have been washed away by heavy rains.

Contributors:

Faith Brown, Nanette Londeree, Katie Martin, UCCE Placer County Master Gardeners

Resource: Northern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide by Katherine Grace Endicott

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