How Does Your Garden Grow?

Louise Grabell

We are deep into winter, but nothing to moan and groan about because it’s a very short season.

While not a growing season for most plants, some succulents are getting ready for their early spring blooms like the red aloes and cape aloes, etc. So what’s a gardener to do? If you’re like me, there are lots of things that you noticed last summer that need correcting.

While the weather is cool, it’s really an opportune time to do some heavy work. Dividing my perennials, adding stone details and planting a tree peony are among a few things on my list. However, what you should not be doing is pruning. Don’t even think about it! Wait until mid-February; that will be a better time for pruning. Of course, you’ve already set your irrigation on a winter schedule of once every 10 to 14 days for two to three hours. That’s it. With cooler temperatures and occasional rainy days, the ground is wet and very little irrigation is needed.

Protecting delicate citrus and certain cacti from freezing is something you can do this time of year. But I’ve seen one big mistake lately as I drive around: citrus trees covered with blue plastic-coated tarp material. Nothing transmits the cold better than plastic. It has no insulating value. It is worse than leaving the plant unprotected. And blue is an ugly color on trees! Frost cloth is what you should be using on your citrus trees and it comes in a nice shade of green. Some Christmas lights under the cloth would provide some welcome heat at night as well. I use a lamp with an incandescent bulb (you know, the old-fashioned bulb that actually gets hot!) under my lemon tree near the base of the trunk under the frost cloth. Also, the frost cloth should be anchored to the ground like a tent rather than gathered completely over the tree, not wrapping it like the cellophane over a lollipop. The ground radiates heat at night, helping to warm the tree under the tent of frost cloth.

Most citrus will survive minor freezing temps if not too prolonged. Citrus planted close to your house will usually not freeze because of the heat radiated at night by the outside walls of your home. One of the more frost-freeze sensitive citrus is lemons and they should be protected. If you cannot cover your large lemon tree, at least remove all the fruits and make a lot of lemonade! Many people squeeze lemons for the juice which they freeze for future use. I freeze the juice in plastic ice cube trays. When frozen solid, I twist the trays to get the lemon juice cubes out and put them in a plastic freezer bag where they stay forever. I mean, how much lemon juice can one person use in a year? Really! The best thing to do is give the lemons to others to enjoy.

Remember: Nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.