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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 Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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