Winter Landscaping Maintenance: Embracing California’s Seasons

At Farmscape, we believe that every outdoor space can be transformed into a harmonious blend of beauty and sustainability. Sustainable landscaping and gardening at Farmscape is an integrated philosophy that guides every decision by our design, installation and maintenance teams. In practice, that means we work with site conditions to enhance the rhythms of nature and nourish people, pollinators and soil on all our projects.

As the windy California winter rolls in, many transplants from the East and Midwest may think landscaping would take a backseat. But numerous winter plants, including citrus and salad greens, thrive in our state’s cool winter climate. And the native landscapes show off their gorgeous colors throughout the cooler months.

Good garden design, along with top-notch maintenance, is the key to great landscaping results all year long. As California’s top eco-friendly landscaping service, we want to share with you our winter landscaping how-to. Follow our guide if you’re a DIYer, or, better yet, reach out to our team for assistance. With good sustainable garden design, you can eat fresh food and enjoy vibrant native plants year-round from your own backyard landscaping.

California’s winter weather is perfect for growing citrus, salads and native habitats. Both in Northern and Southern California, most of our citrus ripens during the cold weather, and our clients’ yards are filled with Gold Nugget mandarins and Meyer lemons. Also during the cooler months and seasonal changes, kale, Little Gem lettuce, radishes and beets are all thriving in raised beds. And in the native landscapes, Toyons are showing off their bright, glossy red berries, and bright blue Ceanothus blooms are right around the corner.

The mild California winter is an opportunity to see your property’s landscape design literally in a different light. The low-angle winter sun, bare deciduous trees, and seed pods and ornamental grasses take your lush, three-season oasis in a bold new direction. Twenty years ago, it would have been common for homeowners to invest in an end-of-season landscaping spree in November, cramming in cyclamen and mums in order to have floral visual interest through the dark winter months. But modern sustainable landscape design focuses on balancing warm-season florals with year-round structural plants, like colorful shrubs and ornamental grasses, and honoring their different seasonal phases. At Farmscape, we swap out winter annuals only in our raised beds, bringing in broccoli and cauliflower to replace summer tomatoes and peppers. The resulting landscape aesthetic is dynamic, always evolving and always delicious, revealing California’s seasonality through flora and fauna.

Landscaping in winter is a real joy after the heat of our California summers. During these short days, our maintenance team tackles tasks like deciduous fruit tree pruning, caneberry pruning, mulching and irrigation management, as well as basic aesthetic upkeep. There are some essential steps every gardener must take for proper winter garden preparation. Our well-trained maintenance experts work from our winter landscaping maintenance checklist to ensure your garden remains vibrant:

Task 1: Deciduous Fruit Tree Pruning
We spend a lot of time training our team to prune apple, peach, plum and any other deciduous fruit trees in the winter months while they’re dormant, to ensure healthy fruit production in the spring and summer. Our methodology is based on the Home Orchard guide from the University of California Press, paired with our unique take on garden landscaping. Winter is also a great time to test fruit tree irrigation and add a layer of mulch to your fruit trees.

Task 2: Caneberry Pruning
Blackberries, boysenberries and raspberries are all examples of caneberries. The preponderance of overgrown blackberries in California indicates just how tricky pruning can be. (Trust us — your berries will be better if you hire Farmscape for an annual winter pruning!) Berries have their own set of rules regarding which canes (branches) to prune, along with how to support them on trellises or stakes, and how and when to fertilize.

Task 3: Doing an Irrigation Audit
Every end-of-season gardening checklist should include running your drip irrigation system and to check for leaks, clogged emitters and stuck valves. Our irrigation experts run each zone or station on manual for 2-3 minutes to visually inspect the line. They also flush the valves to remove any debris that has been caught by the filters. Our landscaping company can also repair any broken irrigation valves, laterals and drip lines.

Task 4: Mulching the Garden
Over the year, mulch decomposes, gets blown away, and otherwise deteriorates, requiring an inch or two of fresh mulch every 1-2 years. We recommend adding 3 inches of mulch around perennials, leaving a little room around stems or trunks for airflow. While some people mulch their raised beds, we recommend avoiding this, as decomposing wood chips can lock up the nitrogen that annual plants need in bulk.

At Farmscape, we believe a good landscape design absolutely has to shine in winter, and we love to showcase our winter landscaping projects. We’ve selected three public projects in three different regions so you can enjoy the beauty and diversity of our sustainable landscape designs, proving that beauty in landscaping knows no seasonal bounds.

California’s weather and diverse climate play a significant role in Farmscape’s landscaping choices, as we want to ensure that each garden design is perfectly attuned to its local environment. For example, Southern California landscaping can lean more heavily into the cactus and succulent plant palette due to the decreased rainfall and fog that the region receives in comparison to Northern California. The same plants frequently rot out in our Northern California gardens during periods of heavy rain, like the winter of 2023. In either situation, great irrigation and drainage play an important role in moving water both on and off the site to help preserve the health of these plant families.

California natives, which have some crossover between the regions, fare well in both our sunny winters (and El Niño years) and our varied statewide summers. Our team of backyard design experts will study your microclimate and select the right California beauties for your yard.

Hopefully, we’ve encouraged rather than overwhelmed you with the variety of ways you can farm and garden in California during the winter months! We’d love to discuss how our team of designers, install experts and organic sustainable landscapers can help you enjoy the California dream year-round. Reach out to us today for a complimentary consultation.