January is an excellent time of year to try your hand at gardening, which is both therapeutic and rewarding. A big yard is not necessary to enjoy a fruitful garden in the City. Container gardening on a deck or patio and window planters are options for apartment dwellers. Get inspiration from seed catalogs, gardening books and magazines. Our mild climate allows us to garden year-round, so keep these tips in mind as you embark on your gardening venture.
Living Christmas trees: These should be outside by now. Keep them in pots that allow enough room for growth, or plant them in the ground. Remember that these trees will get big, so plant them in a space that allows for growth.
Bare-root plants: Buy and plant bare-root plants this month. Soak the plant in a bucket of water a few hours before planting. Bare-root plants include artichokes, dogwood, hydrangea, lilac, magnolia, pussy willow, roses, and wisteria.
Wildflower seeds: If you didn’t plant any wildflower seeds in the fall, do it now. Simply remove all weeds and grasses, mix seeds with a bit of sand to help them spread out, and lightly rake them into the soil. Then use a piece of cardboard or your hands to press down on them. Last, apply a light layer of compost and mist them with a bit of water, keeping them moistened for at least the first week until they start to germinate.
Pruning: Prune fruit trees, roses and deciduous shrubs this month. Woody plants should be pruned just before new growth starts, usually late winter or early spring. Prune from the bottom up and from the interior to the exterior.
Houseplants: Check house-plants for indoor heating trauma. Most likely they will need a good watering and misting, and possibly a special application of fertilizer.
For the birds: To bring some liveliness to your garden, put out a bird feeder. Wild birds are extremely beneficial to a garden or yard because they eat bugs and therefore are one of the best natural means of keeping detrimental insects under control.
Drainage: The water department advises to check for adequate drainage during winter storms to control rot. Make sure your sprinkler system is adjusted or shut down so there is no over-watering during the rainy season.
Dwarf citrus trees: Now is the time to buy and plant fruit trees, including orange, Meyer lemon and persimmon varieties. Dwarf citrus trees come in five-gallon pots, and their small stature is ideal for a small yard. These trees can also be grown in wine barrels repurposed into planters. Good drainage and watering is essential. Do not let your tree dry out completely. Watering twice a week may be sufficient, but gauge your watering schedule according to the weather, season and the microclimate of your particular location. Newly planted trees need more frequent watering until they are established. If new growth wilts or leaves are dull, you are waiting too long to water.
Citrus trees are heavy feeders. Fertilize regularly. If your plant has yellowing leaves, it usually indicates a lack of fertilizer or poor drainage. To thrive, dwarf citrus need lots of light, heat and plenty of water. The ideal planting location is next to a reflective wall with southern exposure. Do the best you can to satisfy this condition, but don’t worry — the dwarf varieties available do extremely well in San Francisco’s microclimates.
May your garden grow well into the new year and provide you with great enjoyment.