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December: what to do in Northern California.

NEW GLOVES

The Ethel garden gloves ($20; ethelgloves.com) come in a wide array of fashionable, snag-resistant fabrics. Use discount code "sunsetmag" to get 20 percent off your order this month.

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GREEN GIFTS Coconut-fiber bricks and composting bins made of recycled materials (from Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply, groworganic.com or 888/784-1722) as well as push mowers and rain barrels (from Clean Air Gardening, clean airgardening.com or 888/433-9101) help your friends and family be good land stewards.

CATCH THE RAIN Set barrels under downspouts to harvest rainwater. Let it rain for an hour before starting to collect the water so that any debris from the roof flushes away. Gardener's Supply Company (www.gardeners.com or 800/955-3370) has a downspout diverter and barrels with a hose outlet to make the job easier.

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Harvest winter squash

Leave a 2-inch stem on each squash. Store the fruits so that they're not touching, in a dry place away from apples or pears. Eat acorn squash first; butternuts should last a couple of months, Hubbards five to six months.

FAST COMPOST Layer "brown" material such as dry leaves with "green" stuff such as veggie scraps; keep the pile moist but not soggy; and turn it regularly. Shred large materials for faster decomposition.

WINTER-INTEREST PLANTS Gary Ratway, co-owner of Digging Dog Nursery in Albion (diggingdog.com or 707/ 937-1130), loves plants that sway or rattle with seeds on windy days, such as Dierama and Miscanthus.

GROW FESTIVE COLOR Jeff and Lisa Rosendale, of Sierra Azul Nursery and Gardens in Watsonville (sierraazul.com or 831/728-2532), recommend red-stemmed hellebore (Helleborus x sternii); red-foliaged 'Safari Sunset' and 'Winter Red' leucadendrons; and redtwig dogwood. They'll light up the garden when the weather is dismal, and you can cut them for indoor bouquets.

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INDOOR PAPER-WHITES Place bulbs on 2 to 3 inches of tumbled glass or pebbles in small pots. Add water to just below the base of the bulbs. Flowers appear in four to six weeks.

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Dress an entryway with pots of pure white Winter Ice cyclamen.

CHOOSE PLANTS AND LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR ZONE: sunset.com/plantfinder
COPYRIGHT 2009 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Checklist
Author:White, Hazel
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Dec 1, 2009
Words:364
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