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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 Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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