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The Dregs of December

Believe it or not, the last of the chrysanthemums are still hanging on. We've had a few mornings of light frost---the idle threat that tempuratures are about to drop. As I look out the window in the morning, I see that the roses have yet to get the memo as well. Their leaves have yet to fall and it's the nagging reminder that it's time to get a few December tasks done.

So here is our December run down...

1. Complete any remaining pruning, cleaning, and discard diseased leaf material.

2. Untuck your bulbs from the cold! -- Pull your tulips from refrigeration

Here in northern California we "force" our tulips. What this means is that we refrigerate our tulips for a minimum of 10 weeks to mimic the cold temperatures the bulbs would otherwise experience being in the ground in colder areas of our country or Europe/the Netherlands. (The majority of our tulips originate from the latter.)

We take our tulips out from refrigeration mid-December and plant them out in our beds. We can expect our first tulips to emerge and be ready to harvest by early March.

3. Sow early or hardy Spring annuals

Always know your last spring frost date! In our growing area of 9b, we estimate our last frost around February 1st. Early or Hardy Spring annuals prefer cooler temperatures so we sow these seeds in early December. Once seedlings are ready, we harden them off and transplant out once we are clear of frost. We often use row cover cloth to give seedlings an extra layer of protection against the cold elements.

Plants that self sow such as Cerinthe, Larkspur and Poppies are already popping up in our garden! These plants will overwinter easily and take off as temperatures warm up in early Spring.

Stuff you'll need: Seeds, sowing trays or egg cartons, unfertilized soil, water, light, and some love.

4. Do a"health check" on garden tools

As I was out in the garden today dividing dahlias with my bonsai shears, a minute pebble got caught and chipped the blades. Furious that something so small could mess with my garden zen, I marched back to the workshop to pull out my sharpening stone and file... once again, reminding me that it's time for me to collect my other tools and to do the same.

Stuff you'll need: gloves, cleaning solution such as isopropyl alcohol or 10% bleach solution, fine metal file and/or sharpening stone, an old rag, linseed oil, sandpaper

• Wearing your gloves, gently and carefully wipe the surfaces of tools (shears, snips, and shovels, etc.) with your cleaning solution.

• If your tool needs sharpening, work carefully and follow the original angle/bevel with your file or sharpening stone.

• Use sandpaper to smooth any wooden handles.

• Protect and lubricate metal surfaces with linseed oil. The same can be done for wooden handles to prevent cracking.

Stay tuned for the next blog post... Favorite tools for the holiday giving season!

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