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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Oct. 17

Rain may finally be on its way; plan accordingly

Garlic bulbs
Seed garlic, like this Purple Glazer hardneck variety, can be planted
now. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Nearly perfect fall weather makes gardening very pleasant this weekend, but change is in the air.

According to the National Weather Service, expect an “unsettled weather pattern,” starting midweek and extending into next weekend. That includes a 50% chance of measurable rainfall on Wednesday – breaking a dry spell for Downtown Sacramento that started March 20.

There’s a 40% chance of precipitation Sunday night, too, says the weather service, especially for the foothills. But these fast-moving storms won’t amount to much in the Valley. The week’s predicted rain total: 0.05 inches.

Next Saturday could be wet all over. The weather service forecast for Oct. 23 for Sacramento: “Likely rain showers.”

Meanwhile, clouds will keep temperatures on the cool side. After a near-normal start this weekend, afternoon highs will struggle to reach the low 70s. Wednesday’s high is expected to be 65 degrees, 13 degrees below normal. Nights will be chilly, too; Tuesday’s forecast overnight low is 42 degrees.

Make the most of these sunny days; there’s a lot to do!

* Got bulbs? Pre-chill tulips and hyacinths for six weeks in the refrigerator crisper drawer before planting. Daffodils can go directly into the ground or pots.

* Speaking of bulbs, dig up corms and tubers of gladioli, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies. Clean and store in a cool, dry place.

* October is the best month to plant perennials in our area. It’s also a great time to divide crowded perennials (and share with friends). When replanting, add a little well-aged compost and bone meal to the planting hole, but hold off on other fertilizers until spring. Keep the transplants well-watered (but not wet) for the first month as they become settled.

* Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves are yellowing between the veins.

* Harvest pumpkins and winter squash.

* Harvest apples, pears and other winter fruit. Watch out for critters. Pick up and dispose of fallen fruit.

* Green tomatoes still hanging around on nearly-dead vines? If they’re large enough to contain seeds, they’ll ripen off the plant. Pick those last tomatoes, ripen them indoors and compost the vines.

* Now is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturtium, nigella, poppy, portulaca, sweet pea and stock.

* Plant seeds for radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Set out cool-weather bedding plants, including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

* Transplant cabbage, kale, broccoli, collards and other cole cousins as well as lettuce and leafy greens.


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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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