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  • Writer's pictureHélène Descoteaux

Protect your plants, the rains are here!

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

TCFI’s Harvest Celebration at the school garden this past month was a wonderful community event with lots of folks coming together to celebrate our West Coast growing season. It included a free delicious lunch with soup provided by Wolf in the Fog, donuts from Rhino that were devoured, bread from Common Loaf and with apples and fresh local carrots from TUCG. Family crafts, garden activities, music and fresh locally grown flowers were enjoyed by everyone. Thanks so much to all of our supporters for making this day amazing!

It was quite a hot day then… but now the Endless Summer of 2022 has given over to the atmospheric rivers of November. The garden is a little darker, suddenly colder, a little quieter. The Japanese maples are glowing their bright show of the year. Migrating birds are visiting on their way south this time. The local crows are always up to something. Gravid spiders have gone down to nest in the nooks and crannies, their clutches of spiderlings will hatch in spring.

Protect your plants from freezing. Remember last winter when we had a beautiful snow that stuck around for the whole last week of the year? Tender plants that were left outside in our normally forgiving coastal warmth were lost. I lost an aloe, a jade, and a 3 year old avocado seedling (which actually then grew back from the stump!) My little lemon seedling hated being snowed on. But it survived, though it has yet to produce lemons. You can buy a ready made row cover, or greenhouse solution or get creative to protect your plants. Even moving potted plants under some kind of cover from the rain will protect them. It’s helpful to know your plants and their preferences. Many brassicas, like kale, don’t mind freezing and will come right back. But with frost, it’s time to let go of the tomato plants for the year.

Many kinds of seeds, such as native plants, and seeds for fruit trees, roses, etc, actually prefer to get cold and wet all winter, and then they sprout in spring. This is called winter sowing. Plant your seeds in a plastic container, I like reusing things you get at the grocery store. Milk jugs or plastic clamshells are a great candidate. The plastic helps maintain humidity for the seeds to germinate. But take care to install drainage holes before you plant! It’s a fine balance having just the right amount of moisture. A milk jug works nicely (cut it almost in half to plant) with the cap off to allow air flow. For your winter sown seeds you want to keep humidity constant so they don’t dry out, but make sure they are free draining as well so as not to cause them to rot. Now the patience of a gardener is required. Tuck your winter sown seeds outside somewhere cold, but where the wind and rain will not disturb the container. Tuck away your wishes for next year, and wait. Next spring as you keep checking on your winter sown seeds, you will see some hopes fulfilled as seedlings emerge!

I started some plums and cherries using winter sowing last year, and potted them on this spring. They had grown to fill a one gallon pot with roots. Fall is a good time for planting trees and shrubs as it takes no work to water thereafter, the rains do it for us! One thing I noticed as I was planting these one year old fruit tree seedlings in the ground recently is that those that had a nice scoop of black, moist compost in the bottom of the pot were noticeably healthier. Give your plants the best compost you can get or make!

It’s also time to plant your garlic, if you haven’t already! It’s easy to grow and delicious to eat.

Stay cozy under a blanket or a warm sweater, and rest! But make sure to get outside in between storms and garden!

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