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For gardeners, a rainy day's reading -- and watching

A perfect time to catch up on gardening info

Red blossom on a pineapple sage plant
Even a little bit of color stands out on a grey day:
The last red blossoms on a thriving pineapple sage.
(Photo: Kathy Morrison)

This late in December I don't have much time to garden even when the sun is out. The current rain system has kept me mostly indoors, where it's warm and cozy. Between flurries of gift wrapping and cooking, I can sit down with a big mug of coffee and catch up with articles and posts.

Do you follow The Garden Professors? They have an excellent blog, offering science-based reports and advice. But it's not humorless -- a clip from the movie "Mame" is included in the latest one.

Linda Chalker-Scott is maybe the best known of the writers, from her work dispelling garden myths and her book "How Plants Work." Her fellow bloggers include Jim Downer, Pam Knox, John Porter and Sylvia Thompson-Hacker.  They also have an active Facebook group , where participants post questions and information, but it's private, and readers must promise to follow the very specific rules before they're allowed to join.

Here are a few of the posts I stashed away recently to read and refer to:

-- Haul Out the Holly ... and a cactus ... and a parasite: A review of holiday plants and their traditions, by John Porter.

-- Pruning Mature Shade Trees , by Jim Downer. This post is an invaluable reference, and includes several pictures of older trees maligned by poor pruning. "Large trees bear the burden of their insults over the years," he writes. Yikes.

-- Poinsettias: from ditch weed to holiday super star (history, lore, and how to get those d@!% things to rebloom next year), by John Porter. Yes, you can get that holiday brightener to rebloom. But it takes some work. Porter also discusses the fascinating history of the poinsettia and how it came to be such a prominent Christmas plant.

-- Why root washing is important: An illustrated cautionary tale . Root washing is a huge topic with Linda Chalker-Scott, and it's an especially important technique for anyone putting in new landscape plants. Root washing is a method of releasing and correcting the root system of plants grown -- stuffed into! -- nursery pots, especially trees. As she notes, "Leaving rootballs intact creates textural discontinuities between the roots and the native soil, and poorly structured woody roots are not going to correct themselves."

Videos on YouTube of course are always good gardening references, but it's easy to get caught up in ones that have no real relevance to Sacramento-area gardens. These videos are iron-clad local, and perfect for winter:

Composting: Getting started and Composting: Hot vs Cold with Susan Muckey of the Sacramento County master gardeners.

Shopping for bare-root fruit trees with Ed Laivo of Dave Wilson Nursery.

Grafting fruit trees with Tom Spellman of Dave Wilson Nursery.

Identifying and removing suckers on citrus trees with Kerry Beane of Four Winds Growers.

Pruning woody sages with Pat Schink of the Sacramento master gardeners. This video includes growing season and dormant season (winter) pruning of salvias. My sages and salvias looked better than ever this past year, thanks to these pruning guidelines.


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Oct. 2

Plan to make the most of the mild weather in your garden.

* October is the best month to plant trees and shrubs.

* October also is the best time to plant perennials in our area. Add a little well-aged compost and bone meal to planting holes or beds, but hold off on other fertilizers until spring. Keep the transplants well-watered (but not wet) for the first month as they become settled.

* Now is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturtium, nigella, poppy, portulaca, sweet pea and stock.

* Plant seeds for radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Set out cool-weather bedding plants, including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

* Reseed and feed the lawn. Work on bare spots.

* Dig up corms and tubers of gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies. Clean and store in a cool, dry place.

* Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves are yellowing between the veins.

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