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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 23

Sunny, dry weather continues; time to get stuff done

Blueberry bare-roots
Bare-root blueberries are plentiful in stores now. Bare-root plants offer the best selection
and best prices of the growing year. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)


One month wet, the next month dry; that’s been our weather pattern this Sacramento winter. Just as a nearly rainless November was sandwiched between soggy October and December, this very dry January is expected to see no more rain.

According to the National Weather Service, our next chance of precipitation won’t be until early February. Meanwhile, afternoon highs will remain in the 60s, well above our January average of 54. Overnight lows will be normal – 39 degrees – with foothill areas perhaps seeing a touch of frost early Monday morning.

This dry spell is not good news for water watchers. January averages 3.64 inches of rain in Sacramento. So far, January’s total for downtown Sacramento: 0.05 inches.

This lack of precipitation coupled with warmer than average temperatures and strong wind means your garden is likely getting thirsty. Seedlings and new transplants will need a deep soaking. So will anything planted in containers.

Otherwise, make use of these sunny days. There’s a lot to do in the winter garden:

* Prune, prune, prune. That includes most deciduous trees, shrubs and roses.

* 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 soon after a rain 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.

* When forced bulbs sprout, move them to a cool, bright window. Give them a quarter turn each day so the stems will grow straight.

* 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 berries as well as 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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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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