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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 20

Expect to see changes in your garden as winter officially begins

Pruning shears cutting a rose cane
Even if they're still trying to bloom, start pruning your roses now. Strip off
any remaining leaves, too. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)





Foggy nights and chilly mornings; welcome to winter in Sacramento!

A new season starts Monday with a crisp, cool forecast now through Christmas. According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento will see afternoon highs hovering around 59 degrees and overnight lows dipping to almost freezing but not quite.

With ground still damp from recent rain, that combination creates perfect conditions for fog, which will settle into the valley for the next few nights. All that moisture will speed up fungal diseases such as botrytis.

Expect to see sudden changes in your garden. Although many deciduous plants have been holding onto their foliage and acting like it’s still October instead of almost January, they’ll stop dropping leaves in bunches now and quickly slip into dormancy.

Make the most of this pre-Christmas week. Work off some calories and show your garden some TLC.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. It’s easier to see their structure without their leaves.

* Start pruning roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* The first day of winter is the shortest day of the year – a great time to plant garlic and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season has begun. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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