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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 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 Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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