Winter Tips for Your Rancho Santa Fe Landscape


By Steve Jacobs

Although it can be hard to tell here in San Diego, with our blue skies and t-shirt weather, it is winter. Most of us associate winter with the holidays, family time, and curling up by the fire, not with spending time in our gardens. That’s what spring and summer are for, right? Well, not necessarily. There are definitely things to do in the garden this time of the year. One is to prepare your garden for the freezing temperatures that have been forecasted to occur in a few weeks’ time. Also, there are steps you can take in winter to maintain the overall health of your garden. Here’s a great list to keep your landscape in top form throughout the year:

  • Check irrigation spray patterns; look for leaks, cut back timing where possible.
  • Clean pool filters, repair broken tiles, pressurize supply lines and update any pool equipment that is outdated and inefficient.
  • Clear guttering downspouts and drainage lines. Reattach any loose guttering and paint if needed.
  • Check for mold around the house foundation. Remove excessive soil that may have built up over the house’s facade. Make sure moisture drains away from your house and consider replacing old spray irrigation heads with drip lines to minimize overspray on stucco or windows.
  • Take a soil sample and test for pH, salinity, nutrients and organic matter. Add amendments as directed. It’s important to get a proper soil sample and send it to a soil testing facility such as Gro-Power testing labs in Chino, CA (
  • Check your landscape lighting system for timing and bulb replacements. Investigate whether your system can be converted to LED lighting. Realize that LED has evolved from the neon blue glow that once was. Newer LED fixtures now have the same coloration as incandescent bulbs, but without the burnout rate. Most have 10-year warranties on the lighting panels (no longer referred to as a ‘bulb’ or ‘lamp’), and some, like the FX Luminaire system ( can be programmed with a Smart controller or even your iPhone to provide different lighting zones (much like irrigation zones). A good lighting system should be professionally installed to insure you’re adding value and beauty to your home.
  • Mulch planting beds to retain moisture and protect shallow root systems. Install 2-3” over the ground. Remove any mulch or soil that might build up on the woody stems of each plant. Lower the soil and mulch levels at all paving to reduce runoff during rain.
  • For roses, prune from now until late February. It’s normal for the leaves to yellow and drop. This means they are going dormant. When ready to fertilize, we use Bayer’s 2-in-1 systemic fertilizer. This can be purchased at Grangetto’s (189 South Rancho Santa Fe Road, Encinitas).
  • It’s a great time to repair lawn damage by laying new sod. Check with local growers like Pacific Sod ( for the most drought tolerant varieties available.
  • It’s a great time to prune most trees. Make sure to hire a certified arborist who has a license and insurance to perform work above a 12’ height. Special care should be taken when pruning Phoenix dactylifera (Date Palm) and Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Palm), as these trees are susceptible to the deadly Fusarium disease. It’s imperative to only cut dead fronds, as this disease thrives on live, exposed tissue. Make sure to use a different blade for each tree pruned. This alone may not be sufficient because Fusarium is an air-borne disease that easily travels from tree to tree.

If you’re not satisfied with the results of your current landscape maintenance company, January is a great time to consult with Nature Designs to discuss improvements in your landscape.
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