Dec. 2013 To-Do List: Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

Home Depot

Christmas tree and decorationsWe can continue planting shrubs, trees, and vines this month. About every three weeks, plant more lettuce, chard, kale, mustard, onions, peas, radishes, and spinach to keep a fresh supply on the table. Pick sprigs of fresh herbs to put in pretty bottles filled with your favorite vinegar for holiday gift giving. Bouquets of fresh herbs tied with colorful ribbon also make thoughtful gifts for party hosts. Tie on a recipe card for a special dish.

  • If you’re getting a living Christmas tree this year, let it spend a couple of days in an unheated garage or shed before bringing it indoors to your warm, dry house. Mist the branches occasionally (do not mist them while the tree is decorated with any kind of electric lights or ornaments) and don’t let the rootball dry out. Plant your live tree or move it back outside within a week, if possible.
  • Plant sweet peas and carefully pull out any competing weeds when the seedlings emerge.
  • Sow flower seeds in the garden or start them in peat pots, seed flats, or small clean containers you’ve saved. Try baby’s breath, African daises, Iceland poppies, verbena, hollyhocks, lupines, calendulas, and wildflowers, among many other choices.
  • To prolong the flowers on forced paperwhites, keep the bulbs in a cool location. Once the flowers finish, don’t feel guilty about composting the bulbs. They seldom re-bloom.
  • Consider becoming a Master Gardener. Ask your local extension service office for information about nearby classes.
  • If seeds seem slow to germinate in the garden, put sheets of clear plastic over the seedbeds to help hold the sun’s warmth. Remove the plastic as soon as the seedlings emerge.
  • Prune evergreen boughs to bring indoors for holiday decorations; they’ll fill a room with their spicy scent. Add red Nandina or holly berries for accent color.
  • Start cuttings of woody plants by dipping the ends in rooting hormone and inserting them in boxes filled with sand. Let the cuttings remain outdoors, protecting them when needed with white plastic or floating row cover. Keep the sand moist and be patient. It may take several months for the cuttings to grow to transplant size.
  • Be ready with floating row cover to protect leafy greens and other crops from sudden freezes. Be sure to remove the coverings once the sun comes out and the temperatures rise.
  • Water houseplants less frequently if growth is slowing down, and don’t feed them while they are in a resting period. Make sure they’re not sitting near heat vents or cold drafts.
  • Check the Home Depot website for seeds and seed sprouting supplies. Popular varieties sell out early, so plan ahead and be ready to order or visit your local store.
  • Need a last-minute gift idea? Write a note to a gardening friend with a promise to dig a hole for a new tree, prune roses, or install paver stones. Help in the garden is always welcome, especially for the green thumb who “has everything.”

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