Hello Winter, What's Growin' On??
Check out tips for your winter garden below.
Winter is the time for crops in the brassica family: Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts. It's a bit late to start these cold-hardy crops from seed, but you can find some good looking plants from your local nursery and transplant into your garden. Brassicas love growing next to garlic and onion, as they serve as a barrier against critters!
Collards and Kale and Lettuce, oh my!! 'Tis the season for all things leafy, and you can plant from seed and harvest all cool season long! Thicker greens like Spinach, Kale, Collards are freeze-tolerant, but be sure to cover your delicate fluid-rich leaves: all Lettuces, Arugula, Swiss Chard, etc.
Onions and Garlic
These warriors of defense are full of benefits in your garden and on your plate! Low maintenance and easy to grow, plant these either throughout your leafy greens, or as a barrier wall around other winter root crops: Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Radishes, etc. Best started by transplant, plant these no deeper than one inch into the ground, root side down. You can find onion starts at your local nursery, and garlic starts on your shelf! That's right, as long as they are organic, you can plug those individual cloves right into the soil! One clove will grow into one bulb. Although these are slow growers (they will take a full season), you can enjoy their "chives" as they are growing. Trim the leaves, leaving at least 2" to continue growing, and enjoy in your home cooked meals. This will also encourage their bulb growth. Also, garlic planted at the base of your citrus trees will provide a nutritional benefit to your tree while it rests in the winter!
These delicate beauties love the cool weather, and their beautiful flowers will aesthetically compliment any garden space. Being avid climbers, peas will quickly need a tall trellis for their tendrils to latch onto. Best method is to insert your trellis, then plant the peas at least 4' apart at the base of the trellis where they will begin using almost right away. Once you see their flowers develop, be on the lookout for the peas which will grow in their place. Crunchy and delicious, it will be hard to keep your hands off of these, which is great because the more you pick, the more the plant will produce. So be sure to plant these in an accessible place in your garden, but also where it won't catch too much wind. They can be quite sensitive to weather, so be on the lookout for any freeze warnings, and cover with burlap to prevent from freezing. Lastly, plant your peas far away from anything in the garlic and onion families, as they are antagonists.
Friends & Foes
Mulch in your garden not only provides a blanket for the soil to protect from freezing temperatures, it creates a foundation for beneficial microorganisms as the mulch slowly breaks down into the soil. Look for ramial wood chips from Acacias, Palo Verde, and Mesquites, avoiding Oak and Pine.
Burlap mulch is the blanket for the soil, burlap is the blanket for the foliage. Wrapping your citrus trees in burlap in the winter, and leaving until the last danger of frost has passed, is a care-free way to avoid losing your beloved citrus trees. The holes in the cloth provide filtered light and air flow, so you don't need to worry about repeatedly putting on/taking off during the season. Also, having some extra burlap on hand to cover your delicate lettuces and peas with is always a benefit.
These little suckers (literally) will drain the sugary sap from your plants and leave them limp, and ultimately dead. They love feasting on leafy greens and brassicas the most. Clinging to the undersides of the leaves, you'll find them in large groups by the hundreds if you don't catch them early. If you look around and notice a colony feasting on your crop, make this solution and spray on the undersides of leaves every 2-3 days around sunset:
One Quart Water
2 Tablespoons Liquid Dish Soap (I prefer Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap)
3 ounces rubbing alcohol
Like peanut butter and jelly, ants and aphids are BFF - Best Foes Forever. They have an amazing symbiotic relationship that really is amazing, but leads to dead plants after all. After drinking up all the sweet sugary sap from the leaves, the aphids form a sap-filled sac on their backs from which the ants drink and nourish themselves. In turn, the ants "harvest" aphids and transplant into your garden because more they bring, the more they are rewarded. That being said, if you have an aphid problem, you most likely have an ant problem, and vise-versa! Try this solution for ant infestations:
1.5 Cups of Boiled Water
0.5 Cup Sugar
1.5 Tablespoon Borax
Dissolve sugar and borax into boiled water. Once cooled, place in a bottle. Place cotton balls throughout the garden, tucking under drip emitters in your irrigation lines. Soak cotton balls with solution, and re-soak every 3 days.
This camouflage little green caterpillar is the culprit for holes in all things leafy this winter!! You've heard it said, "The early bird gets the worm!" It's because caterpillars of all sorts come out at the break of day. It may be worth enjoying your cup of coffee with the sunrise, while hunting Cabbage Loopers as your new morning routine! But if you're not the hunting-type, you can try this Garlic Spray. It might make you hungry, but it's "stinky" smell will deter the pests naturally. You don't need much, it comes very concentrated and a 16oz bottle will go a long way. You can find this at your local nursery, here is info on the product: