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What can I plant in December?

It's not too late to add to veggie or flower garden

Large ornamental kale
Ornamental kale is a good choice for planting now. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Is it too late to plant a garden in Sacramento? It depends on what you’re planting.

Like much of California, we can garden right through the winter. Although it may get frosty (and sometimes downright freezing), the ground never turns to ice.

“A lot of people have been asking me lately if it’s too late to plant veggies and flowers outdoors,” wrote Angela Pratt, owner of The Plant Foundry, in her website’s blog. “And while it isn’t peak planting time any more, we do still have some winter color, winter herbs and winter veggies, and you can still totally plant as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

“When we buy plants this time of year, we look for cool-season veggies and herbs that can still be planted through December, and many other landscape plants can be planted as well, as long as the soil is workable (i.e. not frozen, and not saturated),” she added.

December is the last transplanting chance for many cool-season bedding plants and vegetables. On the flower side, that assortment includes pansies, snapdragons, stocks, Icelandic poppies, calendulas and other favorites.

Kale seedlings on a table
Lacinato kale seedlings can be planted now.
As for vegetables, Sacramento County master gardeners say you can still transplant seedlings for bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard and spinach. From seed, plant fava beans, chard, leaf lettuce, mustard, radishes and spinach. Garlic and onions can be planted now, too.

It’s still not too late to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.

Many herbs can be transplanted now including most of the mint family (such as catmint and oregano), cilantro, rosemary, fennel and scented geraniums.

In addition to all those suggestions, early December is still a good time to divide and transplant perennials such as daylilies and Shasta daisies. If you need to transplant a shrub or tree, do it now, too.

Bare-root season is just beginning. Expect to see strawberries, blueberries, asparagus, rhubarb and lots of fruit trees in local nurseries soon.


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

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

* 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.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

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

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

* 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.

* 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.

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