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Gardening ideas for a winter day

Plant garlic, artichokes, herbs and more -- when it's not raining

Winter savory
Winter savory does well outdoors in winter, not
surprisingly. More cold-sensitive herbs, such as
basil, can be grown in a sunny window indoors.
(Photo: Kathy Morrison)

It’s official: Winter has arrived!

This California Christmas week looks pretty chilly with lots of rain in the Valley and several feet of snow in the Sierra.

On this first day of winter, Sacramento is shivering in the 40s – but that’s balmy compared to higher elevations. Truckee’s forecast high on Christmas Day is only 27 degrees with an overnight low of just 12.

While we might not have much good “gardening weather” this week, it doesn’t mean we’re not gardening.

* Two favorite crops – onions and garlic – are traditionally planted on the first day of winter (or soon after) for summer harvest. These root vegetables both come with a bonus; their greens can be used in winter and spring.

* Also ready for planting (as soon as the ground dries out a little) are bare-root artichokes and asparagus. Both perennial vegetables do well in Sacramento and can be planted in late December or January. Because they’ll stay in the same place for years to come, make sure their new home has good drainage and plenty of organic matter such as compost worked into the soil. Ideally, choose a spot with morning sun and a little afternoon shade to avoid sunburn in summer.

* This also is the time to plant bare-root roses and fruit trees such as fig, apple, pear, peach, cherry, nectarine, plum and apricot (and all their relatives). Buy early for best selection.

* Got bulbs? Put together a quicky two-punch flower display that also makes a great gift. In a deep pot, plant tulips, daffodils or other bulbs about 6 inches deep. Cover with an inch or two of soil. Then, transplant pansies, calendulas, Iceland poppies, cyclamen or other winter bloomers on top of the bulbs. Space the transplants so they’re between the bulbs if possible. Or group all the bulbs in the center of the pot and transplant the pansies, etc., around the pot’s edge. The annuals will soon cover the top of the pot with flowers, then the bulbs will push up between them, adding some late winter thrills.

* Herb gardening is year-round. Herbs also make good living Christmas gifts for both the gardeners and cooks on your gift list. Basil and parsley can be grown indoors in winter on a sunny, warm window sill. Other good gift herbs include chives, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. Or give garlic with instructions on how to plant.


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For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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