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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of May 15

Warm days, nights will prompt rapid growth of summer vegetables

Young squash plants
Straw is an excellent mulch for summer squash and other summer vegetables: It's light but helps prevent the soil from drying out. And that droopy leaf at left? That's a normal reaction to afternoon heat by squash, melons and tomato plants.
The time to worry (and water) is when they droop in early morning. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Mid May will feel a lot like mid June as Sacramento settles into a pattern of warm, dry days with above-normal temperatures.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento will see three or four days in the low 90s this week with the remainder in the mid to high 80s. Overnight lows are warm, too, with some nights staying above 60. Historically in May, Sacramento averages highs of 80 degrees and lows of 51.

Those above-average nights mean soil temperature will be warming, too. Expect rapid growth from tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash as they soak up that early heat.

While that heat is good for summer crops, it likely will push remaining cool-season vegetables over the top. Harvest cabbage, lettuce, kale, broccoli, beets, carrots, chard, spinach and similar veggies before they go to seed. High temperatures also can turn lettuce and other leafy greens bitter. Pick them now and store in the refrigerator crisper drawer.

Those 90-degree days will crisp roses and other spring blooms. Take some time this week for clean up. Get chores done early to avoid afternoon sun.

* Deadheading – cutting off spent flowers – will extend bloom season for many shrubs, especially roses. Expect another round of roses six to eight weeks after deadheading re-blooming varieties.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer flowering shrubs and perennials with a balanced fertilizer.

* Are birds picking your fruit off trees before it’s ripe? Try hanging strips of aluminum foil on tree branches. The shiny, dangling strips help deter birds from making themselves at home.

* Run the sprinklers early in the day – before 8 a.m. if possible – to conserve water and minimize plant diseases.

* Mulch around trees and shrubs as well as plants in the vegetable garden. Mulch conserves moisture and cuts down on weeds.

* Transplant tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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