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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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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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