Dec. 2013 To-Do List: Southwestern Deserts

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Variagated poinsettia.We gardeners enjoy decorating our homes with pots of colorful poinsettias, Christmas cactus, and other flowering plants during the holidays. To keep your plants healthy and attractive, be careful not to overwater them. Slip off the decorative wrappings when you water so any excess can drain away, and keep the plants away from direct sunlight and drafts. When you need a gift for a party hostess, friend, or teacher, tie a small bouquet of fresh herbs with some pretty ribbon, or bottle up an herbal vinegar and attach a recipe card for a favorite dish.

  • Low desert gardeners can plant bare root roses this month; if you live at a higher elevation, wait until February or March.
  • Planning to give holiday gifts of homegrown citrus? Be sure you aren’t inadvertently spreading HLB, an incurable citrus greening disease. Check your trees regularly for signs of the Asian citrus psyllids that transmit it. If you see signs of HLB, contact your state department of agriculture or the USDA immediately.
  • Onions can survive the winter if left in the ground, but pick turnips, cabbages, collards, and other kohl crops if temperatures are expected to drop to 10 degrees F or below.
  • Harvest greens by the “cut and come again” method while the weather stays above freezing.
  • After tender crops like basil, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes are harvested, sow a cover crop of clover, vetch or peas to keep down weeds on bare spots in the garden. Till the “green manure” under next spring.
  • Plant trees and shrubs until February. Keep them mulched and well watered.
  • It’s also time to plant woody vines like crossvine, American wisteria, and Carolina jessamine. Use twine or plant ties to secure the vines to support. Avoid invasives like English ivy, Chinese wisteria, and trumpet vine.
  • Low desert gardeners can keeping sowing seeds of leafy greens, carrots, radishes, beets, and scallions every few weeks for salad makings.
  • Keep fresh-cut Christmas trees watered so the needles don’t dry out and present a fire hazard. Live Christmas trees need moist soil and bright light; when the holidays are over, help them acclimatize to the outdoors by moving them first into a sheltered location. Plant them in the yard or garden now or by early spring.
  • Decide on the vegetables and flowers you want to grow next season and make a list of seeds and seed starting supplies you’ll need. Popular varieties sell out fast.
  • Bring in the cuttings when you prune evergreens. The fragrant boughs make wonderful holiday decorations. Use Nandina and red holly berries for accents.
  • Bermuda sod can still be planted, as long as you keep it watered throughout the winter.
  • Propagate cuttings of woody plants by dipping them in rooting hormone and placing them in boxes filled with sand. Keep the cuttings outside in a protected area and cover them with white plastic or floating row cover.

 

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