Organize seed packets

Haul out that stash of seed packets. Remember to round up stragglers- search the garden tool bucket, the shed, your favorite gardening shorts. Now organize your seeds. Separate them into major categories such as annuals, cool weather edibles, warm weather edibles, etc. Refresh your mental or physical list of which seeds you'll need to buy. Set aside any that are good candidates for wintersowing or that need cold weather stratification. You'll be planting these shortly. And consider seeds that have been untouched for a few seasons. Get over the irrational attachment, throw or give them away, or add them to the wintersow or "sow directly in late fall or winter" category. Lidded plastic boxes come in sizes to suit most any seed collections.

Now you're well prepared for looking at seed catalogs, which brings us to...

Save seed catalogs for your own Christmas present

Seed catalogs start infiltrating the daily mail along with Christmas cards. You're much too busy now to start dreaming about next year's garden! Get yourself a pretty, botanical print, gift bag. Any seed catalogs or gardening literature that arrives goes immediately into that bag. Ah, your set-aside seeds can go here! While you're at it, print out 'Ruminations of a Garden Catalog Junkie" by Larry Rettig and slip it in the bag. Open and enjoy your catalog gift on Christmas day, and still have plenty of time to order seeds.

You say you can't last for an entire 25 days without a planting fix? Well, then, if you must...

Buy an Amaryllis kit for gifting, or assemble one yourself

Shop for Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs as gifts. Red Amaryllis are easy to find at local stores. Many more "boutique" varieties are sold online. They may be on sale now (You're in luck!) or sold out (Oh, no!). Choose between preplanted ready-to-grow bulbs, kits of bulb and supplies, or individual bulbs. Believe me; a devoted plant lover will be delighted at the sight of a bare Amaryllis bulb. He or she will thrill with the thought of the upcoming bloom and fun of planting and growing the bulb. For a less hands-on lover of flowers, a premium bulb that you have personally chosen and planted in a pretty pot makes a thoughtful offering. You might simply buy a basic Amaryllis kit, but plant the bulb yourself in a nicer pot and start the growing before presenting the gift. Then again, even grocery stores sell about-to-bloom Amaryllis. Is your recipient a cut-flowers-only kind of person? Be sure to offer to rescue (er, care for) that Amaryllis after the bloom is done. You should have no trouble getting more years of bloom. Learn about Hippeastrum care from Jill M. Nicolaus in "Amaryllis 101: Caring for Amaryllis Plants and Making Your Amaryllis Bloom Again Next Year."

Speaking of potted plants...

Houseplant check

All of the tender tropical are in the house now. Give them a good look now. Are they adjusting? A few yellowing leaves aren't alarming, but many yellowing, dropping leaves are a desperate plea for help. Check for the first signs of insect activity; specks under the leaves, fine webbing, unusual "growths" along the stems. "The Big Five Critters that will Eat Your Houseplants" by Paul Rodman will instruct you on pest problems and solutions. Look in cachepots and saucers; are any plants stewing in their own juices? Too-wet and too-dry plants can show similar symptoms. Correct your watering habits. Rainwater or bottled purified water make potted plants happy. Remember to let rainwater warm up to room temperature before using it. Consider the siting of your plants. Some of us, who shall remain nameless, bring in too many plants with too little thought as to where the plant would look most attractive. Get plant placement guidance from Suzanna Talbert in "House Plants as Décor: From Jumbled to Just Right."

Now, go eat a few sugarplums, and start dreaming of better, REAL, gardening weather to come!