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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of March 28

Warm temperatures inspire summer planting (but wait on tomatoes)

Small purple buds and leaf on lemon tree
Citrus trees, like this Genoa lemon, are starting to bud, which means it's time
to fertilize them. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Suddenly, it feels like tomato planting weather. But check the soil temperature before putting out your tender seedlings.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento is going to warm up to the low 80s, starting Sunday. We'll stay warm most of the week with at least four days forecast to be 80 degrees or above -- more than 10 degrees above normal for late March.

Gusty winds on Monday will keep that afternoon in the low 70s, but otherwise expect very warm and sunny conditions all week.

Soil thermometer showing 55 degrees in soil
The air temperature was 70 degrees when this photo was taken,
but the soil is still just 55 degrees -- still too cold for tomatoes, which
prefer a soil temp of 60 degrees and above. Peppers and melons
require even warmer soil temperature.

That makes it extra tempting to transplant tomatoes, peppers and other summer favorites. But the overnight lows will still be dipping down into the mid 40s. Likewise, the soil temperature hasn't warmed up enough yet to make summer vegetables feel really comfortable. Wait until overnight low temperatures stay reliably in the 50s before planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

If this heat persists, soil temperatures will start warming up, too. Perhaps set out a few trial tomato plants next week to see what happens?

Meanwhile, there's plenty to keep you busy:
* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them before they flower and go to seed.
*Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to cut down on blossom blight.
* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit. To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.
* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, 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.
* Plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.
* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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