New to winter gardening; plant acclimation & fertilizing

monocot(z7 CA)September 17, 2005

We are new to a mountain area in SoCal (z7); winter temps get into the low teens (F). How long do we have to plant this year--can we keep going into the winter or should we stop at some interval before the first frost (~ end of Oct.). Of course, I am using cold-hardy plants (shrubs, primarily). but they will come from nurseries that although nearby are at lower altitudes (= more like z8/9).

Even genetically cold-hardy plants would, I assume, need to be acclimated to the greater cold they will experience here vs. where they were grown. Can we buy the lower-altitude plants and acclimate them up here before putting them in the ground? How long should we give them to adjust? Presumably we would have to provide shelter at first (especially if it's started freezing up here).

Also, when we plant, can we use preplant fertilizer (6-1-1 is what I usually use; Gro-Power) or will the higher N content stimulate soft growth too much? Should we use any preplant fert. considering that we are planting as the weather is cooling off?

Thanks very much for any help.

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Are you sure you have your zone correctly? According to the USDA, there isn't a zone 7 in SoCal - the closest zone 7 would be in the Sierra Nevadas about on same latitude as the Bay area, 7b extends a bit lower but well above what is typically considered southern California.

Assuming you are really in a zone 8 at the lowest (average minimum winter temp of 10F), then your planting season can extend throughout the winter. Since the range of planting zones in your area is so broad and the climates diverse, your only limitation is selecting plants most suited to your conditions. Obviously, plants that would thrive in balmy coastal conditions may not be happy in what is most likely your high desert conditions.

Frost is really not a concern when planting hardy trees, shrubs and even perennials, neither is acclimation to any great degree - many trees and shrubs sold in nurseries here in the PNW are grown by the large wholesaler growers in the Visalia area, at least a zone 9, and they fare well in our winters. Even at our higher, zone 7 elevations, provided they are listed hardy for that zone.

Fertilizing before or at planting time is not recommended. Newly planted material is already under some stress and fertilizing tends to increase that - and the plants are unable to metabolize additional nutrients, nor do they need them. Even root stimulators are unnecessary as most woodies are experiencing considerable root development through fall and well into winter. Watering is probably the most critical factor and protecting from drying winds, if those are common in your area. A well-hydrated plant is less likely to experience cold damage and dessication. And mulching well after planting is always a good idea.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2005 at 6:07AM
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