The harvest of summer vegetables is over, but that doesn’t mean the garden has to be put to bed. The days are still warm enough to get some hearty, cool season vegetables in the ground. This is the time of year for root vegetables—beets, radishes, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots—all which can be started from seed. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard can also thrive throughout the winter months. In this area, garlic is grown year-round but the best time for home gardeners to plant it is right now for bigger, better bulbs. Water regularly and mulch around all vegetables to protect roots and to keep the soil moist.
Winter vegetables grow at a slow rate, which leaves plenty of time for other winter tasks. Garden maintenance chores done now will make for a better garden in the year ahead.
Renovate and repair unused vegetable beds: weed and till the soil at least six inches deep and add organic matter to discourage weeds and improve the soil for spring. Consider planting a cover crop of clover, bell beans or fava beans to add nitrogen to the soil—a boon for next year’s crop of vegetables.
Take time to remove dead plants from landscape beds and around the yard. Cut back perennial flowers and shrubs and again, mulch, mulch, mulch.
Trees need attention now too. Prune the three d’s: dead, damaged and diseased branches. For citrus and other fruit-bearing trees, clean up fallen leaves and get rid of old fruit lying on the ground.
Have some garden fun, too. Plant bulbs like tulips, narcissus and dahlias. Sow some wildflower seeds that attract bees and other beneficial insects. Order seed catalogs and start dreaming of spring.
Susan Hart is a UCCE Master Gardener of Monterey Bay