Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter Tasks For The Lower-Maintenance Garden & Landscape

One key part of growing and maintaining a lower maintenance landscape is to focus on preventing problems the whole year round. Late January into February is a key time for controlling weeds and pests like slugs, the longer days and warming temperatures signal the pests to wake up and get busy.

Weeds: In my own garden I have noticed some weeds starting to flower – flowers now equal seeds later. I need to weed them out before they spread all over. The key point here is I noticed them, it is important to get outside in the winter and evaluate the situation.
Bittercress and other weeds in the path of my blueberry patch. If I only have limited time to weed , I would  concentrate on pulling the bittercress. Blooming  or ready to set seed weeds should get immediate attention.
Slugs and snails: If one is going to bait for slugs, now is the time to start it. Over-wintering slugs and snails are waking up and getting ready to start their new families, the more you can catch or kill with bait now the fewer there will be to lay eggs; if you reduce the population now, you will probably use less bait over the year.

Yellow jackets/hornets: While hornets are great predators of many garden pests (they will carry off and eat cabbage worms!) they have a nasty sting if you disturb their nests (often in the ground). Setting out baited traps in late January to catch the queens before a big nest is built, can reduce the summer hornet population. Link: Information on hornets on the University of California's IPM site.

Quince, summer 2015, in my "mini front yard orchard" 

Diseases: Cleaning up dead and damaged plant can help reduce over-wintering diseases and other problems. In the organic garden it is really important to keep things clean as there are limited organic chemicals to fix problems once they start. I have cleaned up all of the fallen leaves in my mini orchard and veggie gardens and will put down a fresh layer of clean mulch (bark dust or commercially made compost) to hopefully bury/smother any over wintering diseases.

Keep notes: When you notice a pest emerging in the garden make a note on next years calendar to remind you to check on it.
While winter is a great time to catch up on napping on the sofa, time spent tending the garden in winter will allow more time for napping in the sun on the patio in summer! 

My plan is to keep up on the little tasks so they don’t become huge chores and spend my time enjoying my plants and flowers. Spending 10 minutes each day pulling a few little weeds and hand picking pests is preferable to having to spend an entire weekend weeding.  “A stitch in time saves nine!”

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