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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of March 6

Dry week ahead with more chilly nights

The weeds are out there, and they're not getting smaller. Whack them down
now. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

So much for that “rain.” Although storm clouds dropped a few sprinkles on their way to the Sierra, Downtown Sacramento has yet to get any measurable precipitation from these passing weather systems, says the National Weather Service.

Our record dry winter streak is now 56 days (through Friday) and counting. Sacramento’s last measurable rain (0.05 inches) fell Jan. 7.

On the bright side: It could be worse. Sacramento got so much rain in October and December, our total rain year is still tracking “normal.” Since July 1, Sacramento has received 14.47 inches; normal to date is 13.55 inches. So, that total actually measures 107% of average.

But we still really, really need rain. According to the weather service, Sacramento is at 80% of its annual average total of 18.14 inches and our “rainy season” ends in less than two months. Historically, Sacramento receives 3.9 inches in March and April combined.

No rain is expected this week with 0% chance of precipitation in Sacramento through at least Friday. Meanwhile, temperatures will remain cool. Clear skies overnight will help plunge lows back into the 30s – not quite below freezing, but close enough. Daytime highs will nudge into the low 70s by mid-weed, but soil temperatures will stay chilly – too cold for tomatoes!

Spend this dry week preparing for spring:

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). 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.

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

* Start preparing vegetable beds for summer favorites. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* What can you plant now? Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, 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.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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

Fallen camellia blossoms
Yuck! This is the downside of growing camellias. Get those
blossoms up to help control blossom blight.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* 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.

* 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 wee 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.

* 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.

* 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.

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