Using native plants in your landscape design doesn’t mean you must sacrifice order, color, rhythm and texture. Rhythm is created by the repetition of a particular shape, texture, or color. Textures create contrast within a planting bed. The spiky or twisted texture of Yucca or the airy quality of some native grasseslures the eye when placed in beds among the smaller, finer texture of native plants such as Salvia or ferns.
Utilizing strong lines in the landscape controls the viewer’s eye better than any other design element. Lines can be continuous, or dotted. Curved lines are generally relaxing and seem to correspond with a natural landscape. Remember that the eye will take in the complete arc of a curve. By controlling where the arc of a bed line sits, you can control the view of your home and garden.
Vegetables, Fruits and Berries
Grow what is precious: things such as organic baby greens or juicy colorful heirloom tomatoes.
When you have a good list of things you want to grow, ask yourself which ones are really worth growing yourself from seed. The answer may be, anything that grows better direct-seeded than started in cells and transplanted, and things you want to make repeat sowings of, including, beans, peas, squash and pumpkins, spinach and salad greens, cucumbers, root crops like carrots and beets, braising greens, dill, basil, melons, and corn.
With transplants, like tomatoes or peppers, ask yourself, “How many plants of each will I need?” Who needs 50 cherry tomato plants in the home garden?
Once you’ve pared your list consider adding a couple of indulgences. You have earned it!
Don’t grow something in bulk that you can’t harvest and/or cure and store properly, even if it’s a staple of your diet. Do the research in advance.
Collaborate with friends – compare orders and swap partial packets or plants.
Pick your citrus and enjoy sharing it with friends and neighbors. If you have an abundance, consider sharing it with community kitchens.
Nematodes are not fond of organic material in the garden, so keep up the good work with your compost bin! Now is a great time to spread compost in your garden beds and dig it in.
Keep studying harmful garden pests and beneficial, organic methods for eliminating or working with them.
Compost piles should be turned regularly. Make this work easy on yourself, as it can become quite heavy. Compost tumblers are wonderful, speedy help.
Flowers and Houseplants
Keep in mind that the addition of red hued plants will visually heat up the garden. Blues and purples will cool it down. Yellows and whites will balance it.
Jade Vine (Stronglyodon macrobotrys) is a winter-blooming, woody climbing vine that produces long chains of up to 100 exotic velvet-textured flowers. Use a strong arbor or pergola to support the growth. Plan as you plant. Until it has become established, keep the roots well irrigated. Do not hesitate taking a machete to it when it is mature and needs cutting back.
Bromeliads are all-around performers, adding texture and color to a variety of locations in the landscape, from tree branches to rock gardens to pots, and they can be planted anytime of the year. Research whether the variety you want to plant prefers full sun or partial shade.
If growing your bromeliad in a pot, use an orchid bark mix with equal parts peat and perlite.
The water in the ‘throat’ or cup of the bromeliad can invite mosquitoes to lay eggs. Flushing the cup with fresh water every few days may be enough to take care of the problem. If not, periodically treat with a lightly mixed horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
Trees and Shrubs
Container grown sea grapes can be planted any time of the year, but set out transplants only between December and February. Location is important. Plant at least 10 feet from buildings, walkways and streets. (Their mature height can reach 25 feet, and width equaling 20 feet.) They grow well in sandy soil and are drought and salt tolerant. A good use of them is as a barrier or specimen plant.
There are now more than 200 cultivars of mango trees. Watch for their yellow flowers through the winter. The long-lived mango trees are great shade, climbing and fruit trees. Be aware of potential damage that may occur from falling fruit, and plan accordingly.
Another fine shade tree blooming through March is the Lychee, also with yellow flowers. The delicious edible fruit is an extra bonus. Keep newly transplanted trees 20 to 25 feet from buildings.
Butterfly bushes will bring a variety of color to the winter landscape with lilac, pink, purple, and white blooms. Watch for ‘volunteers’ and transplant now, during dormancy.
A little water will go a long way with your turf.
If rainfall is limited, let your grass tell you when to water it. You can tell when the grass is approaching a wilting stage when the blades start to curl. Water only to replenish.
Both over-watering and over-fertilizing will create problems with pests and disease.
Know your opponents! Study what vulnerabilities exist for your particular type of turf, and come up with a plan for treatment. Early identification allows you to minimize chemical treatments.
It is always easier to care for a healthy turf and garden than to fix old problems.