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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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For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

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

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

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

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

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

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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