Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
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 away from cold drafts. You can provide humidity by placing gravel in the saucer beneath the plant. Do not set gift plants on heat-producing appliances such as televisions or stereos, or they'll dry out too quickly.
Buy Bare-Root Plants
Bare-root plants will start showing up in mail-order catalogs for nurseries and garden centers this month. The bare-root way is the most economical and stress-free way to plant (from the plant\'s point of view), plus it has the benefit of allowing plants to adapt to native soils. Look for roses, fruit trees, berries, and asparagus, plus many other varieties of dormant or deciduous stock. If you can\'t plant right away, store the plants in damp moss so that the roots don\'t dry out.
This is the time of year when hard freezes sneak up on unsuspecting gardeners. Clear windless 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 eves or against a south-facing wall. If plants do become damaged by frost, wait until spring to prune them. Although the wood may look dead, it\'s alive inside.
Winter Bird Care
Make our feathered friends happy this winter by keeping birdbaths and feeders clean and full. Migrating birds will appreciate an overnight rest stop on their long journey south. Hummingbirds especially need fuel this time of year, when fewer flowers bloom. Set up bird feeders in locations where cats and other animals can\'t reach the birds.
Garden Tool Care
In January pruning begins in earnest, so clean and sharpen your clippers and saws now so they\'re ready for action. Use a flat file, a round file, and some lubricating spray such as WD40 to sharpen them. After sharpening, use a lubricating oil on all moving parts and clean the blades with a wire brush to remove any dirt or debris. Treat wooden handles to a coating of linseed oil.