January Pointers: West Coast Plant and Garden To Do’s

A quick search on the web will help beginning West Coast gardeners with a good supply of information on what to do and when and how to do it. Plus there are many gardening books which tell the newcomer to the Coast how to grow the plants found at their local nursery.


Although the gardening kindergartners are well taken care of, the mass of garden-loving homeowners who already know the climatic variations, the soils of their own plots and the commonplace plants, which they have grown over a number of years, are eager to widen their horticultural horizons. There are many things they want to know.

The pandemic has Pacific Coast gardeners giving more thought to the livable possibilities of their grounds all year round. They want to lift their gardens above the ordinary.

They long to give their grounds distinction by means of appropriate and satisfying design, to grow the right plant in the right place and to care for it and prune it with understanding. To supply the desired picture they want the best varieties of familiar plants as well as lesser known material which can be grown with ease.

Southern California

The pandemic has many gardeners beginning to think of victory gardens again. It is late now for planting winter vegetables, but such hardy old standbys as potatoes, onions, celery, chard, spinach and all the cabbage tribe can be put in early next month. 

It will then be time for new plantings of beets, turnips and carrots.

Examine the roots of any bare-rooted fruits for disease before planting. Never let this young stock dry out between rains. If you are planning to add peach trees, consider varieties developed at the University of California.

Crabapples do well in Southern California when they are planted in the sun, given good drainage and water during summer droughts.

California Fog Belt

Keep your ears open this month for frost and storm warnings. Gardeners in the Fog Belt, where some of the clearest, sunniest days come in winter, still shudder at the thought of the storms.

One winter’s cold may not be as severe as previous years where some sections of the Monterey Peninsula can have six nights of continuous frost. 

Sweater-clad, you can shiver in the morning and evening in heated rooms and swelter outdoors from noon to four in gardens visited at night by frost.

Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys

It is rose planting time in the Big Valley, where interest runs high. It is important that suitable varieties for this climate are selected. Roses in strong sun are likely to bear smaller blooms and the flowers may have fewer petals than when grown where the heat is less intense. 

While full sun is recommended for roses, those in Big Valley gardens may benefit from filtered light and will even perform well on the north side of the house.

Some of the more recent roses have proven to be good citizens of hot gardens.

Pacific Northwest

Last winter’s heavy storms played havoc with trees and shrubs, breaking branches and spoiling the lines of well pruned specimens. The foliage of broad-leaved evergreens sticking out above deep snow was burned black. 

This year, recollect past catastrophes in time to prevent a repetition of damage and resort to artificial protection. A thick blanket of snow is good for the roots below it. It is the uncovered parts that suffer.