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Expert Offers Winter Gardening Tips

Above: Pointsettia

Aired 12/5/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Nan will answer your questions in the comments section below from 1-2 p.m. Submit your questions and hit "refresh" to see Nan's answers.

Transcript

This is the season that separates San Diego gardens from most gardens around the country. Instead of being covered in snow and ice, our gardens are active and gardeners still have lots of questions about planting and harvesting the bounty of the late fall.

Gardening expert Nan Sterman joined us to share winter gardening tips. Read the comments below for even more info on how to grow a successful garden in the colder months.

Comments

Avatar for user 'kps_listener1230'

kps_listener1230 | December 5, 2011 at 9:44 a.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

What is the best method to resuscitate camellias which have lost their luster now that buds are setting in? When is the best time to fertilize relative to their bloom cycle?

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Avatar for user 'dearsrock'

dearsrock | December 5, 2011 at 12:54 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Q 1: What to do about those pesky squirrels, rabbits and moles? And how about combating the tiny insect predators? I am up beyond Jamul. (poison is not an option). Many thanks!

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Avatar for user 'alzycat'

alzycat | December 5, 2011 at 1:03 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

I purchased blue berry bushes last spring and planted them in pots. Should I be pruning them back this winter, or should I wait for a few years?
They have not lost all their leaves yet, should I wait till they have ? Thanks !

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:04 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Hi everyone! I'm really excited to be doing this live chat. I'll start at the top and make my way down to help you...

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:07 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Re camellias - tell me what you mean by "lost their luster?" Have they lost their leaves? Or are the leaves dull? or? As far as fertilizer, I'd fertilize them in spring using an all purpose organic fertilizer. Always always follow the lable directions when you fertilize

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:11 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Squirrels, rabbits and moles... you probably have gophers rather than moles. Macabee traps are a good non-toxic solution to gophers and I recently saw an on-line video for something called a cinch trap, www.cinchtraps.com. I just checked on line and it looks like they have traps for moles too. From their video, they look pretty easy to use, probably easier then Macabee traps.

When I had a cat, I had NO rabbit problems. Now that kitty has gone to heaven, the rabbits are overwhelming in my garden. I keep them out of my vegetable garden by fencing them out - using a small mesh hardware cloth or rabbit fence, maybe 3' tall. Bury one foot below ground (rabbits dig) and leave the other two feet above ground. Inspect the fence regularly to be sure that there are no breeches.

Squirrels - sigh - lemme answer another question and I'll get back to the squirrel issue

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:16 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Re blueberries - I hope you purchased one of the Southern Highbush Blueberries which are the ones suited for our climate. They do really well in large pots, in full sun. Yes, you can prune them now. You'll find good directions on this page: http://www.fourwindsgrowers.com/pdfs/blueberry_information.pdf.

If the leaves have started turning colors, go ahead and strip them off. That will ensure that they go dormant which is necessary for good fruiting next year.

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Avatar for user 'John Decker'

John Decker, KPBS Staff | December 5, 2011 at 1:16 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Nan- How do you recommend pruning lavender? We have 4 massive plants in our backyard that are overgrown. I am concerned that we may kill them of we cut them back.
Thanks

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Avatar for user 'alzycat'

alzycat | December 5, 2011 at 1:18 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Re blueberries - Thanks Nan ! Yes, I did get Southern Highbush types, Misty & Emerald & I LOVE them, hoping to get more to add to the collection. I'll get to pruning !

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:26 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Back to squirrels. Get a cat. Really, my cat kept the squirrel population at a minimum. That said, he also got birds, lizards, and other critters that I really didn't want to lose from my garden. So, absent a cat, your other options depend on the type of squirrels you have. There are some that are threatened so you can't destroy or trap them. Some require a hunting license (no kidding).

The best information is on the UC Cooperative Extention's Integrated Pest Management site: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7438.html

There's tons of info so take your time. Perhaps the most important statement (in terms of non-toxic control) is this:

**Natural Control**
**Many predators, including hawks, eagles, rattlesnakes, and coyotes, eat ground squirrels. In most cases, predators aren’t able to keep ground squirrel populations below the level at which they become pests for the home gardener. Dogs might prevent squirrels from entering small areas, but they can’t control established squirrel populations.**

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:29 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Re blueberries - Misty is early season while Emerald is mid season. You might want to try Chandler or Sunshine Blue, both of which are mid to late season harvest. That will give you the longest blueberry eating season!

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Avatar for user 'dearsrock'

dearsrock | December 5, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the input! Yes, I have ground squirrels. Removed all the brush nearby thinking that would help. I do have one dog that helps, but they aren't allowed in the garden with out me as they tend to have a lot of fun digging stuff up. Tried an electric wire just off the ground last year, but lost lots of other critters I'd like to have around. Off to do some reading, thanks for coming by today!

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:33 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Re Lavender -

John, pruning lavender is a real challenge. The pruning itself isn't challenging, its the "when" that's a challenge. Lavender takes to pruning best if you start the first year it is in the ground. If you wait too long (which is sounds like you have) plants become really woody. You can't cut into the wood, nor can you cut *back to* the wood or you'll lose the plant. Once it gets that woody, it tends to split too and look really terrible. Honestly, I'd remove those old plants and replace them with fresh new ones, then establish an annual schedule to prune back maybe a third of the growth right after the lavender is done flowering.

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:35 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Re squirrels - sounds like you are on the right track. Just remember that you'll never get rid of all of them. That's just not possible, especially in a rural area like yours. Let me know if you come up with a method that seems to work for you. I love to share good information. My email is info@plantsoup.com.

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Avatar for user 'kps_listener1230'

kps_listener1230 | December 5, 2011 at 1:39 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

hi Nan.
I guess the description of camelias sounded a little vaguely middle aged. leaves are dull, turn yellow and sparse (i.e. fewer new leaves than old). Buds form but last year, they did not bloom much; about 50% of them dessicated and dropped off. I have tried an iron rich camelia food this fall, perhaps not the right time of year.

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Avatar for user 'sarahj'

sarahj | December 5, 2011 at 1:40 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

I have several hibiscus plants each about 9 months old, two feet tall in one gallon pots. They are just starting to form first buds. I live near the coast. Now that nights are getting down to near 40 degrees, should I bring them inside at night? Should I bring plumeria (potted) in at night too?

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Avatar for user 'uncamikey'

uncamikey | December 5, 2011 at 1:42 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Nan... I was unable to catch the email address to which to reply for the sumer garden seed workshop...... can you kindly repeat it?

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:46 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

More information on Seed Starting Workshops:

I provide all the supplies, you just show up to learn and have fun. The workshop lasts about 2 hours (and the time flies fast!) at the end of which, you'll go home with your entire spring/summer vegetable garden planted - tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, basil, melons, and so on.

I'll be offering the workshop at several locations around the county between mid January and the end of March (your seedlings will be ready to go into the ground mid March through May).

If you are interested, please send an email to info@plantsoup.com and put "seed starting workshop" in the subject line.

I have several locations set for North County coastal, North County inland and one for Central San Diego. There are still some openings for host sites in central and south county. All that's required is a well-lit space that can get dirty, with tables and chairs, and a ready water source. Want to host a workshop? Email me!

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:47 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

RE camellias - how and how often are you watering? How old are the camellias? How much sun or shade do they get? What part of San Diego County are you in?

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 1:49 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

Re hibiscus and plumeria
They should have absolutely no problem outside all winter along the coast. Do watch the hibiscus for giant whitefly - its a real nuisance! If you see it, get some insecticidal soap and start washing....

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Avatar for user 'Nan Sterman'

Nan Sterman | December 5, 2011 at 2:02 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

It's 2 pm and I have a garden consultation up in Oceanside so I'll check out for now. I'm sure we'll do this again next time I'm on Midday Edition, which should be sometime in March. Thanks for your questions and stay tuned!

And remember to support KPBS

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