My goodness, where does the time go? It seems I just wished everyone a happy and prosperous new year. Now it's almost the end of the month. It seems like spring is just around the corner. After the very cold weather from a couple of weeks ago, the warmer temperatures are most welcome. From my vantage point at local farmers' markets I know a lot of people had plants frozen back or lost plants altogether in the recent cold snap here. As I, and lots of other gardening folks have written in the last few weeks, don't be in a hurry to cut back the dead branches from your plants. That mass can help protect the plants in the next freeze... and, yes, I'm sure we will experience another bout of freezing temperatures before spring sets in for good.
Lushious and green curly parsley after the freeze.
Hardy arp rosemary and Santa Cruz oregano looking good after the freeze.
It is time, however, to start cleaning up garden beds and preparing for new plants in the garden. If, like me, you've allowed that pesky Coastal Bermuda to invade your beds, now is the time to dig it out.
Dormant Coastal Bermuda invaded this bed.
Sadly, chemical herbicides (i.e. Round Up©) just don't work long term on Coastal. The best way I know to deal with it is to dig as much as you can out. Now it's mostly dormant, so it should be easier to dig. Then mulch, mulch, mulch!!! I've been using the layered newspaper technique, which really works well but is a bit of work.
The technique: Dampen newspaper; lay at least 4 to 6 layers or more on the soil. Next, overlap it in a crisscross pattern so there's no space for the Coastal to come through; cover with mulch. To plant, cut through the paper and set your transplants in. The newspaper degrades after while, as does the mulch, of course, but if you've been able to keep the Coastal and other weeds from coming up, then you can just keep up a good layer of mulch in the beds without the newspaper.
The one drawback to this method is if you are waiting for reseeding annuals to sprout—the newspaper mulch will keep them from sprouting. Many people grow dill, fennel, cilantro, poppies, larkspur and even basil by leaving seeds on the plant and letting them fall and germinate in situ. I have an area where the tall, bright orange cosmos grew last year. I sprinkled more seed around the area because I want more of them this year. They were just fabulous and attracted butterflies and other beneficial insects all summer and fall, until frost. The Coastal isn't too bad in that area, so I'm going to dig it out and simply put down a good layer of organic mulch without the newspaper. The cosmos seed will germinate through the mulch, I hope. If you're waiting for reseeding annuals to sprout, you can still dig the Coastal out. You might want to wait until you see sprouts of the plants you want before mulching.
I'm also seeing "spring" grass in one bed, so that has to be weeded and mulched again.
My grass is hiding the chervil in this bed!
It may seem like you can spend a lot of money on mulch, but the savings in the work later on, especially as the temperature warms up and you'd rather be enjoying your garden than weeding, is worth the investment. And, a good organic mulch will add needed nutrients and tilth to your soil.
If you have a lot of leaves later in the spring, when the Live Oaks shed theirs to make room for the new leaves, rake them up into a pile and run your mower over them to chop them up. These make great mulch, which prevent relocation to your local landfill. If your community has a compost project, they'll take them, too, of course.
Take a look at your garden and see where you might want to start cleaning up for the spring planting season ahead. You'll be inspired to continue your projects as you imagine new plants growing and thriving in the upcoming months.
My lettuce bowls are almost ready for sale!