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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of April 10

Cooler weather (and chance of rain) make for good planting conditions

Marigolds
Marigolds are popular floral additions to vegetable gardens. Grow them from seed
or find transplants of all colors. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)


How did your garden handle the heat?

Early spring flowers and tender new growth were no match for recent high temperatures. Combined with ultra-low humidity and dry winds, these conditions sucked the vitality out of tender shoots and flattened flowers before their time.

With so little rain so far this year, plants and soil are unusually dry. That also increases fire danger. Be extra careful when working outdoors; a single spark (from a lawnmower hitting a rock, for example) can ignite a wildfire – even in the city or suburbs.

Expect a huge cooldown and maybe even rain on Monday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Sacramento’s forecast calls for a week full of days in the low to mid 60s – about 30 degrees cooler than last week’s peak.

Make the most of this cooler weather: Plant!

It’s finally time to set out those tomato transplants along with squash, peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

Instead of setting out all your summer vegetables at once, stagger them over the next four weeks. That gives your garden a better chance of producing over a longer period as well as avoiding weather-related complications.

Make sure to keep seedlings and new transplants hydrated. Deep water trees and shrubs.

Other tasks for your garden to-do list:

* Weed, weed, weed! Get them out before they flower and go to seed. Those unwanted invaders are hogging water and space from the plants you want to grow.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of aged compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Feed citrus with a low dose of balanced fertilizer during this month’s bloom and fruit set.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, carrots, corn, cucumbers, pumpkins, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.




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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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