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Winter Garden Maintenance: Tips for Keeping Your Garden Healthy in January

First rule of landscaping: Never, ever interfere with a natural water course! Go with it, not against it or it will literally destroy anything in its path with mud slides. Rain! We love it, have longed for it and need it, right? It’s been years, if not decades since we’ve had a real raining season. And we sure got it these past couple of holiday months!

It does make being outside in the garden a very muddy, messy and slippery experience even if you have good drainage. It is certainly an excellent time to evaluate any drainage issues and to clean out those gutters, downspout pipes and drainage grates for a good flow. Oh, we forget about that the rest of the year, don’t we? Especially the past severe drought years.

Person wearing yellow rain boots splashing in a puddle

Good to put drainage on the list for when things dry out as digging in wet soil is bad for it, destroying both its nutrients and cohesiveness of our mostly clay soil. Slightly damp soil is easiest to dig before it gets hard as rock in the summer. So, if you insist on planting anything in January, plant some buckets of worms while the soil is wet and moist so they can slither throughout your garden fertilizing and aerating it in all directions all year long particularly in planting areas kept moist.

Isn’t it nice not to have to water? One task critical to winter garden maintenance is to be sure to turn your irrigation systems off until there is at least a week or two for things to dry out. Tuning in to the weather and forecasts is a good start. Remove the dead batteries, evaluate in anticipation of any needed irrigation changes and drip or sprinkler supplies needed.

Garden tools in the shed

For me January is a busy gardening month in the sense of clean-up generally-speaking. How about de cluttering, dusting out and re-organizing that toolshed, greenhouse, potting shed or garage area? Good work for rainy days. Create a workbench inside it with good light and a comfortable seat, nice and cozy. While you’re at it, and if necessary, add some shelving to view and find things easily.

Dispose of all those toxic chemicals to hazardous waste. Find as many non-toxic solutions to problems as possible. There are many. Get conscious! For example, use Sluggo which won’t poison your pets nor you should you want to eat them like they do in France. Escargots, yummy, but that’s a whole another complicated and rather cruel process. Anyway, a good nursery such as our Sonoma Mission Gardens on Arnold Drive in Sonoma are very knowledgeable and helpful for any pest problems.

Photo shows garden tools on a potting bench

Tools need to be clean and sharp. It not only applies to hand tools, but to shovels and rakes, too!

It is also an excellent time to sort through those endless packets of seeds in preparation for seeding and germinating, planning and preparing for any new plantings. For those procrastinators seeding wildflowers now’s the time as soon as the rain stops so they don’t wash away.

Generally-speaking it’s tidy up time for what’s to come including taking inventory.

In my experience living here since 1981, often in February we get unexpected and sudden heat. It can also freeze until mid-April so patience is the name of the game for planting tender new plants. Follow the lead of vineyard workers usually busy pruning and seeding ground cover throughout our hillsides in January, spraying dormant oil on dry days. You’ve got to get that done before budding and blooming or it will harm beneficial insects and birds. Same applies for any fruit trees. And so, in January, as in every single month of the year, there is a to-do list for your garden, even if it is only a few pots on a balcony!

Happy New Year from Deva Inspired Gardening (DIG) and myself, Dana (pronounced Danna) Osborn, in business here in Wine Country since 1996 when I turned my life-long passion for the beauty of nature, (and beauty generally-speaking), into professional, constructive layout, design and installation work with a contracting license #760937. I’ve most often lived in the mountain wilderness riding old fire and horse and buggy trails, revealing hidden valleys and small spring-fed lakes. They still exist, thank God although fencing has disrupted many of these including the ancient wildlife trails to water and pastures. I have grown to appreciate and love the native plant species, wildflowers and wildlife of our valley and hills, drawing the whole world to its beauty.

What does the name of my company mean? Devas (pronounced Dayvas NOT Divas who are operatic tragediennes) are archetypal, metaphysical energies often referred to as the architects of Nature, giving land its unique form and function. They work in tandem with the elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire and delegate to those corresponding elementals: Earth/Gnome, Water/Undine, Air/Sylph and Fire/Salamander. Archetypal means something from the collective unconscious, an energy everyone can relate to, even old Walt Disney with Tinkerbell and the Gnomes for the sake of the children. But these are actually very big energies indeed. If one needs to personify them, they would more likely look like giant Kings and Queens reigning and living in the Mountains.

These energies are very ancient and more known in Europe. For example, Machaelle Small Wright at the Center of Nature Research, Perelandra Ltd., works with them for her healing essences. So does the Findhorn Ecovillage Community in Moray, Scotland where scientific experiments show the difference between a plant using these energies thriving next to a plant without. Another example is a ‘Deva Garden’ created by world renowned British landscape designer Graham Burgess for the Hampton Court Flower Show in England. Graham specializes in historical and symbolic mazes and gardens. He had previously won premier prize for his Beatles Maze for the International Garden Festival in Liverpool in 1984.

Out here in the far, far West, little is known about these energies. I only discovered their existence myself in the 80’s. Whether they exist, or not, really depends on an individual’s experience. The whole notion of them makes sense to me in the sense of the existence of energy outside our known physical boundaries. They inspire me whenever I design and install a garden to take into account the whole area outside the boundaries of our own parameters. I just tune in and they flood me with information which guides me. No, I’m not woo-woo or loony-tunes, I’m just very curious and sensitive. After all, it is a mystery and I love mysteries. Besides I’m always up for whatever help I can get! I am ever so grateful for the gift of their good and practical guidance which is always in dominion, not domination, with Nature together with those individuals for whom I work with for their gardens.


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