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“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. But humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine for example, one need be neither god nor poet. One need only own a good shovel.” Aldo Leopold

Sunset in the San Gorgonio wilderness. Photo by Emily Sluiman.

Current events, history, review, and notes

Happy New Year! Calendar year, that is. In the natural garden we start our year around September 15 celebrating post-summer and ready for fall. Right now we’re in winter which can generally mean we’re in a season of rest and reflection.


Seasonal rains seem to be doing it so far this year.

Related to Watering

Try to get all the water that falls in the vicinity to soak into your garden soil. Utilize roof gutters flowing to swales, rain chains, berms and specialized grading to keep water on the site long enough to soak in.

A functional “dry creek bed” natural swale. Water: slow it down, spread it out, soak it in.


Anything can safely be pruned in winter but be careful you are not cutting off spring bloom flower buds. This is the ideal time to thin and prune deciduous trees and shrubs, as the leaves are gone and you can see the structure of the plant you are pruning. Also, be aware that many beneficial insects are hunkering down for winter in the safe recesses of dead stems, dried flowers, and brown seed heads. 


If you sowed wildflower seeds last fall, they should be starting to germinate about now, making the task of “weeding” a bit of a challenge. Be careful to spare your flower seedling as you pull or otherwise eradicate weeds.

Mulching / Top Dress

Leave the leaves. The leaf litter, forest topdress, natural mulch that your plants are making under their branches, atop their root zones, is nature’s way of retaining soil moisture, cooling the root zone, reducing weed growth, and providing a natural source of nutrients. There should be no need to import mulch or topdress onto your soil in winter.


The soil is a bit cold and the plants are taking a little rest, so you should hold off on feeding until early spring. Check this newsletter in March and April.

Troubleshooting – Varmints, Pests and Diseases

Thankfully, everything seems to slow down with our short days and cool (cold) temps. Now is the time to do a little cleanup of the most unsightly dead material, old annuals, milkweed dead top growth, etc., leaving space for beneficial insects, garden allies who will be reactivating and showing up very soon. 

Annual Wildflowers

It is not too late to sow wildflower seeds and expect a wonderful spring bloom. The rains have been arriving at nice intervals and soil moisture is just right. We have rain forecast in the first part of January so get your seed! We have several custom mixes to choose from, so come on over or give us a call. We can send seed to your door in time for the next series of rains.

Fall/winter seed germination (Jeff Bohn watering), Tree of Life Nursery

Adding New Plants

The rainy season (November through April) is the best time to plant native plants. We have an amazing selection of high quality plants ready for your garden right now. Come for a visit.


What is the garden saying this month? I’m hearing the word “rest.” Aside from a little clean up between storms or any sort of grooming you might want to do in the garden, it’s probably best to take a clue from nature and native plants and take a much needed rest from gardening tasks. This will allow you to spend more time simply reflecting, observing, enjoying, and connecting with the place.


Tread lightly. Avoid compacting wet soil with heavy footprints. Also be careful around all those tiny wildflower seedlings you’re starting to see, if in fact you already sowed seeds. Leave some dead material on the plant or lying around to provide sanctuary for beneficials.

Yerba buena (Clinopodium douglasii) invading a walking path. Re-wild. Walk around or better yet step on the branches to get an amazing whiff of our native mint.

Important Review

Winter a time reflection

Rains doing the wastering

Soak it all in

All pruning ok, but fall was better

Judicious weeding

Leave the leaves

No feeding yet

Promote the garden allies

Sow seeds ASAP

Best time to plant is now

Nature at rest

Tread lightly, don’t overdo it on clean up

It’s that “long shadow” time of year again. Dakota the nursery dog.


When we walk through our garden or out on a favorite nature path we notice the low angle of light, and feel the crisp clean air, the moist ground underfoot, and we play with that characteristic cold-evening vapor out front of our breath. Birdsong is rare. It all seems vaguely familiar, like, hey, it really is winter again. 

The season rushes in and then just sits. Sunsets take forever. Nights are long, and we feel more comfortable wearing an extra layer. Fires are nice, and some of us get a lot more reading done in winter. Quiet reflections. 

Rest, dear heart. Soon enough, nature’s pulse will cause our pace to grow more hurried again. 

Let’s keep makin’ it, even while we’re takin’ a rest!.

From JANUARY  in the Natural Garden,

Mike Evans