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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of March 13

Rain may finally be headed Sacramento's way; more 70-degree days in forecast

Flower on a pelargonium
Pelargoniums are excellent perennial "understory" plants or ground cover. The flowers are small but beautiful; many are just blooming now. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Sacramento’s historic winter dry spell may finally be coming to an end.

According to the National Weather Service, “likely rain showers” are in Sacramento’s forecast for late Monday night and most of Tuesday. Downtown Sacramento’s last measurable rain – 0.05 inches – fell Jan. 7. A slight chance of showers is also in Sunday’s early morning forecast.

But it won’t be much; the Monday-Tuesday storm is expected to drop up to 0.30 inches on Sacramento. At least, it’s something. During normal rain years, March averages 2.75 inches.

After this brief wet interlude, Sacramento will see more mild sunny days in the low 70s, but nights will still be chilly, averaging in the mid 40s. Wait a little longer on setting out tomatoes and peppers.

During this warm spring weather, show your hard-working garden some TLC.

* Seed and renovate lawn and grasses. 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.

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

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use 2 tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to 1 quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

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

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

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce, collards and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground. (Beet seeds benefit from soaking first.)

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

* Transplant perennials.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

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

* 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.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

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

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

* 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.

* 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.

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