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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 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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