Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

December, 2007
Regional Report

Care for Gift Plants

Poinsettias, Christmas cactus, and cyclamen all need a little loving care to get them through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Provide light and humidity, and keep them free from drafts. Do not set gift plants on heat-producing appliances such as televisions or stereos.

Shop for Bare-Root Bargains

Bare-root plants will start showing up in nurseries and garden centers this month. Bare root plants are the most economical and stress free (from the plant's point of view) option, plus they have more of a chance to adapt to native soils. Look for roses, fruit trees, berries, and asparagus, plus many other varieties of dormant or deciduous plants. If you can't get them in the ground right away, store the bare-root plants in damp peat moss so the roots don't dry out.

Watch for Signs of Frost

This is the time of year when hard freezes sneak up on unsuspecting gardeners. Clear, non-windy days turn into freezing cold nights. Protect citrus and other tender plants by covering them with old sheets or bedspreads when frost is predicted. Move tender container plants under the eaves or against a south-facing wall. If plants do become damaged by frost, wait until spring to prune. Although the wood may look dead, it protects the live wood inside the plant. Pruning also encourages new growth that may be nipped by frosts later in the season.

Be a Friend to the Birds

Keep birdbaths and feeders clean and full. Migrating birds will appreciate an overnight rest stop on their long journey south. Hummingbirds, especially, need fuel, so keep those feeders full!

Clean Garden Tools

Next month pruning begins in earnest, so clean and sharpen clippers and saws so they are ready for action. To clean and sharpen your cutting tools you will need a flat file, a round file, and some lubricating spray, such as WD40. If you like, you can treat wooden handles to a coating of linseed oil. After sharpening, use a lubricating oil on all moving parts, and clean the blades with a wire brush to remove any dirt or debris.

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