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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Oct. 3

Water year ends dry, but rain could (finally) be on its way

5 small pumpkins
Harvest pumpkins and winter squash when you can no longer made a mark in the skin with your fingernail. These cute Little October variety of pumpkins are about the size of a fist and do well grown on a trellis. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Is rain finally on its way? According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento has a “slight chance of showers” on Thursday. If any measurable precipitation materializes, it would end the longest dry spell in Downtown Sacramento history – 197 days (as of Saturday) and counting.

This drought has been one for the record books, too. California’s water year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30) officially ended Thursday. For the water year just completed, Sacramento totaled 7.87 inches – about 10 inches below average.

That followed a very dry 2019-20 water year: 10.95 inches. By comparison, Sacramento’s historic water year average: 17.8 inches.

Friday started a new water year with (hopeful) expectations of wetter months ahead. October averages 0.95 inches of rain.

October starts warm with high temperatures forecast in the low 90s through Monday. But then, it will start to feel like fall; Thursday’s predicted high is only 71 – 20 degrees lower. Next weekend may top out in the high 60s. Overnight lows will be colder, too, but still staying in the 50s.

With this dip in temperatures, expect to see a sudden change in your garden, too, as it gets its cue to prepare for winter.

* October is the best month to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. 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.

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

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

* Clean up the summer vegetable garden and compost disease-free foliage.

* Harvest pumpkins and winter squash.

* 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 broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, Brussels sprouts and other cool-season favorites.


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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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