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Celebrate Earth Day every day

Whether it's from annual flowers, native perennials or fruiting bushes and trees, bees needs food throughout the year, so keep them and other pollinators in mind when you choose plants for your garden. And avoid pesticides and herbicides, too. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Five quick tips to help nature, one garden at a time

Happy Earth Day!

We’ve had 50 years of practice on how to celebrate our connections to Mother Earth. But we can always do more. (Remember: Be kind to Mother!)

Here are five quick tips on how we can make a difference, one garden and one day at a time:

1. Stop spraying toxic chemicals. Say goodbye to harmful pesticides and herbicides. Embrace integrated pest management and let nature help us control the bad bugs while nurturing the good guys.

2. Help the bees (and butterflies, too). Be a friend to beneficial insects. Plant flowers that attract bees and butterflies. Try to have something in flower (and potentially a bee buffet) throughout the seasons. While some bees hibernate in winter, honeybees remain active year round.

3. Respect your soil; don’t treat it like dirt. Healthy soil is teeming with important life. Those multitudes of micro-organisms are crucial for a healthy garden. Feed your soil a steady diet of organic material and other nutrient-packed amendments, so your garden can feed you.

4. Make more compost. This is going to be part of daily California life very soon – it’s the law. We’re all going to have to cut down on the amount of organic (carbon-based) waste that we put in the trash. Turn those peelings and coffee grounds into garden gold.

5. Rethink your waste. Follow the familiar mantra, “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” But take it to the next step with some thoughtful small changes. Got lots of cardboard boxes? That cardboard can be used for weed control under mulch. (As it breaks down, it provides more nutrients.) Newspapers can be turned into mulch, too, or shredded and composted. It’s not “trash”; it’s opportunity!


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

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

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

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

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

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

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