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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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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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