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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 5

Some much-needed rain may be coming soon

Red poinsettias
Poinsettias prefer warm, sunny spots. Don't forget to water them thoroughly after you bring them home and regularly afterwards. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

“Keep your umbrellas handy” – how long has it been since you read that phrase?

But that’s the advice ahead of what could (finally) be a soggy week in Sacramento.

According to the National Weather Service, expect “unsettled weather next week,” starting with light showers in northern California on Monday and Tuesday. Sacramento will see a better chance of widespread rain Thursday and Friday. Late week mountain snow is possible.

But the weather service added this disclaimer: “Medium forecast confidence.”

Similar weather systems have flirted with Northern California this season only to bend north. Drenched by atmospheric rivers, Seattle recorded its wettest November in history with some suburbs recording more than 14 inches.

Meanwhile, California has been extremely dry. Los Angeles saw its first rainless November in more than 30 years. Sacramento’s November rain total (0.72 inches) was about 40% of average.

What’s average for December? Historically, 3.25 inches.

Rain or no rain, patchy ground fog will continue, says the weather service. That will keep high temperatures just about normal for early December: 58 to 62 degrees. Overnight lows will stay relatively warm in the mid 40s.

Make the most of dry days in your garden:

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

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

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly.

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

* Remember to water, especially seedlings, new transplants and potted plants.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs. Get the tulips out of the refrigerator.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root roses, berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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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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