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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 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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