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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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