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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 Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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