The rainy season is here! Or is it? It is now late December and barely a drop of rain has fallen during the current, supposed wet period. Without any rain, we still have our irrigation clocks set in the “on” position, waiting for Mother Nature to send some clouds our way. But before we get too gloomy, this is San Diego, where sunshine and warm temps rule most days. Maybe it’s time to get out and begin that landscape project you have been dreaming about.
Some folks assume they need to postpone planting now with the onset of winter. But as long as those landscapes are not located in the eastern foothills or low lying inland valleys, winter in San Diego is often one of the best times to plant. The cool temperatures and reoccurring rains combine to gently acclimatize transplants. This is especially true with native plants and other northern hemisphere drought tolerants. Genetically, these plants are programmed to not expect much water in the dry season, but naturally thrive in winter rains.
Our moderate weather now helps plants acclimatize and root without nearly as much supplemental water as needed spring through fall, saving on water bills even if the rains don’t completely do the job. The new transplants will root fully and be ready to take advantage of the entire growing season by spring.
One unlikely but possible caveat can thwart plans: the unlikely but still possible cold snap that seems to hit every few years. These unusually severe frosts (by San Diego standards) can affect plants all the way to the coast. But by planting the right plants to survive these frosts, and throwing a blanket over susceptible plants like citrus or bougainvillea, the homeowner can ensure the landscapes stay in good shape through these unlikely yet still possible severe cold periods. In my experience, these extreme cold snaps usually take place in late December or early January and only last a couple days. This slim possibility should not postpone a project.
Why wait for warmer weather? Our mild climate makes landscaping a year-around possibility and winter a good time to get plants into the ground and ready for spring. Designers and installers do not have lengthy backlogs of work at this time of year. Why wait to renew the landscape?