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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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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the early hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.

* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes. 

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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