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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 March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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