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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 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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