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Protect your in-ground plants near the house from becoming waterlogged by extending your home's rain gutters with flexible pipe.

Fix any dripping outdoor faucets and then wrap the exposed portion of the water pipes. Insulation that becomes saturated from a leaky faucet is of little protective value during freezes.

Turn off and drain sprinkler systems by removing the head from the sprinkler at the lowest point of your lawn; or, install a sprinkler end drain.

Drip irrigation systems should be turned off if a freezing morning is forecast; remove the end plug for drainage.

Plant from seed directly into the garden this month in the Sacramento area: Vegetables - bok choy, broccoli, kale, collards, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach. Flowers - California poppy, cornflower, larkspur, poppy, scabiosa.

Flowering quince, acacias and winter daphne will be the first plants to bloom in a few weeks. These harbingers of spring can be planted now.

Spring-blooming perennials to transplant now include foxglove, columbine, salvia and gaillardia.

Winter and spring blooming annuals available at local nurseries this month include primroses, snapdragons, cyclamen, pansies and violas.

Choose poinsettias with an abundance of dark, rich green foliage that is undamaged, dense and plentiful all the way down to the soil line.

Clean, sharpen and oil garden pruners before making the first cut of the season.

Wash mud off shovels and rakes before putting them away in the garage.

Dormant roots of asparagus and artichokes are available now in some nurseries. Plant in areas that have good drainage, such as raised beds or hillsides.

Living plants that make good Christmas gifts include herbs. Basil, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme grow well indoors, in a sunny window.

Choosing a living Christmas tree? Varieties that do well in our climate include the Italian stone pine, aleppo pine, deodar cedar and Colorado spruce.

Avoid the Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) when shopping for a living Christmas tree. The Monterey pine, which has a tough time surviving here in the valley, is subject to bark beetles and pine pitch canker.

After purchasing a living Christmas tree, leave it outside until a few days before Dec. 25 to keep the tree from becoming stressed.

Keep poinsettia plants thriving through the winter in your house. Place them in a warm, sunny location, out of drafts. Water weekly; feed monthly through April. Then, transplant them outdoors.

If you received houseplants as holiday gifts, be sure to remove the foil surrounding the pot to avoid root rot.

Bare root roses are now appearing in area nurseries. Choose those that list Grade 1 on the label. These will grow more vigorously in their first year, unlike those graded as 1-1/2 or 2.





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