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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 13

Change is in the air, but still only slight chance of rain

Bicolor nemesia
Nemesia make good border plants. They will bloom all spring
but will appreciate a little afternoon shade come summer.
(Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Are we finally going to get some rain?

After a week of near-record warmth, change is in the air, says the National Weather Service. Storm clouds are actually heading our way with a slight chance of drizzle on Monday or Tuesday.

But real rain? We’re still going to have to wait a little longer, predicts the weather service. Instead, these clouds are headed for the Sierra, where they may drop 1 or 2 inches of snow in the higher elevations. At least that helps our snow pack.

Sacramento last saw measurable precipitation (0.05 inches) on Jan. 7. We’re edging closer to a record winter dry streak – 44 days, set in 1976. If Monday’s clouds pass us by, Sacramento could match that record next Sunday, Feb. 20.

Following this weak storm system will be gusty winds on Tuesday and Wednesday, says the weather service. Those winds will drop daytime temperatures back into the low 60s, but only for a day or two. More spring-like afternoons are on their way.

Make the most of this good gardening weather. (But hold off on planting tomatoes; soil is still too cold.)

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees with copper fungicide to control leaf curl before they bloom. If the buds have already started opening, you’re too late.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts. Wait on feeding camellias until after they bloom.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale and lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

* Annuals are showing up in nurseries, but wait until the weather warms up a bit before planting. Instead, set out flowering perennials such as columbine and delphinium.

* Plant summer-flowering bulbs including cannas, calla lilies and gladiolus.

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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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