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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 23

Plant pansies now to instantly brighten up the winter garden. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Focus on holiday plants; keep them looking fresh

With the holidays upon us and rainy weather, we’ll be more focused this first week of winter indoors than outside.

The key to keeping holiday plants looking fresh? Make them feel comfortable.

* Treat cut Christmas trees like a giant flower. They need water; otherwise, they dry out and become more susceptible to fire danger. (Dry trees also shed needles like crazy.) Check the water bowl under the tree daily; a 6-foot tree drinks a lot.

* If you have a living Christmas tree, make sure it stays watered. Check the soil; it should be moist, not soggy. Try to get these young evergreens outdoors as soon as possible. More than a week inside can weaken the tree.

* Poinsettias can be fussy. They like it cool; six hours of indirect light in the low to mid-60s; dark nights at 55 degrees. Make sure to take off the foil wrapper or punch holes for drainage. More on poinsettias here:

When you do get outside:

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

* Turn fallen leaves into mulch. Chop up larger leaves with a lawn mower.

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

* Bare-root season is under way. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Roses and fruit trees are available, too. No time to plant? Hydrate the roots in a bucket of water with 1 teaspoon bleach. They’ll keep for at least two or three days.

* Brighten your new year with winter bloomers such as calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Get any remaining spring bulbs in the ground.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, chard, kale, peas and greens.

* Plant from seed, cloves or sets: peas, fava beans, greens, beets, radishes, onions and garlic.


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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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