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Butte County Winter Overview

Rain returns during winter; in our Mediterranean climate most of the annual rainfall occurs in the winter and early spring. Winter can be a time of rest and renewal for gardeners as well as their gardens. There is snow in the mountains but enough warmth in the “banana belt” areas in Paradise and Oroville to harvest winter oranges. There can be freezes or fog in the valley, but backyard gardeners can harvest chard and kale. Rice farmers flood their fields after harvest to decompose straw and provide a place for migrating water fowl to rest from their lengthy flights. Each rainstorm feels like a gift, and provides time to clean garden tools, search through seed catalogs, and plan the spring garden.

Winter Preparation

  • Top-dress lawns and garden beds with compost.
  • Use the weather to your advantage: Observe the location of standing puddles left by winter rains; note where you need to improve drainage for plants and where winter rainfall can be captured to help restore soil moisture.
  • Mulch, water, and cover frost-tender plants when temperatures fall below 32 degrees. Be sure to remove protective coverings during the day.
  • Brighten the holidays with poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies, and primroses.
  • Stabilize plants that could be damaged by high winds.
  • Take root cuttings from woody shrubs and evergreens, such as azaleas, holly, and hydrangeas.
  • Take hardwood cuttings if propagating deciduous trees and shrubs. Dip cut stems into rooting hormone powder and plant in equal parts sand and vermiculite. Keep moist.
  • Purchase bare-root fruit trees when selection is best. Cooler temperatures provide favorable planting conditions; plant promptly to protect roots from freezing temperatures.
  • Choose bare-root roses while selection is good, and plant them.
  • Discourage winter weeds by cultivating and mulching around bedding plants, shrubs, and trees.
  • Daydream with seed catalogs and select seeds for the upcoming garden.
  • When bringing in cut daffodils and tulips avoid putting them in the same arrangement. Daffodils produce a chemical “slime” that injures tulip blooms.
  • Stop fertilizing cymbidium orchids. Reduce watering and protect them from frost. Watch for buds, then stake the buds while the stalks are short and pliable.
  • Clean, sharpen, and store garden tools. Sterilize tools, pots, and anything used around plants with a solution of one part household bleach to nine parts water. Soak for about 15 minutes, then rinse and dry.

Produce in Season

Mid-December to Mid-March

  • Asian greens
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Lettuces
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Spinach
  • Turnips
  • Apples
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwifruit
  • Kumquats
  • Lemons
  • Mandarins
  • Navel oranges
  • Persimmons


  • Horseradish
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sweet bay
  • Thyme





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