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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 Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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