It's crunch time for winter gardeners.

Anything you want to grow in the winter, and some in the spring, should establish roots before the first hard freeze of the season, which could happen around Thanksgiving, says gardening adviser Russ Buhrow.

"I wouldn't wait until the end of November" to get planting done, says Buhrow, Tohono Chul Park's curator of plants who dispenses gardening advice at monthly events.

The first half of November is still warm enough to encourage vegetable and flower bedding plants to lay down roots, he says.

Plant lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, onions, carrots and peas, among others, in the vegetable garden. For the flower bed, include pansies, Johnny-jump-ups and Iceland poppies for color right through winter.

Desert wildflowers also should be seeded now, says Buhrow, for an abundant, colorful crop in the spring. "You want seeds to germinate in the fall and bloom in the spring," he says.

Water seeds daily until they sprout, then weekly after that. He suggests covering seeds and sprouts with hardware cloth so that birds can't eat them.

Buhrow also advises gardeners to learn the difference between what's a wildflower to keep and what's a weed to pull out. Otherwise, "they'll end up with a weed-flower garden," he jokes.

Here are some other items for the November to-do list.

• Overseed the lawn. The longer you wait, the more time and water it will take to germinate the annual rye grass seed. Thatch the Bermuda and distribute the seed with a light layer of manure. Buhrow suggests using triple the amount of seed that's instructed on the bag because once you start seeding, "you're gonna really have a lovely crop of doves."

• Bring especially cold-sensitive potted plants such as adenium into the house. Group other cold-sensitive potted plants in a warm spot in the yard so it's easier to cover them all during frost nights.

• Resist urges to prune most plants, says Buhrow. Deciduous trees aren't dormant yet, fruit trees may be forced to bud too early and summer-growing plants need their foliage for frost protection.

If you go

Ask the Expert

• What: Russ Buhrow, Tohono Chul Park's curator of plants, answers gardening questions.

• Where: 7366 N. Paseo del Norte.

• When: 9 a.m.-noon on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. The next one is Nov. 13.

• Admission: Free.

• Et cetera: You do not have to enter the park to attend this event. If you want to visit the park, regular admission fees apply.

• Information: 742-6455, www.tohonochulpark.org

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Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net

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