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Garden tasks for a rainy day

What to do when you don’t want to go outside

Garden journal
Here's a good idea for a wet day: Review what
was planted last year. Keeping an annual journal
helps jog the memory when it's time to order
seeds or start planting. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

It’s finally raining; now what?

We gardeners know we need the precipitation, but this big winter storm is expected to keep us indoors for most of this week.

According to the National Weather Service, the greater Sacramento area could receive as many as 3 inches of rain this week – almost as much as we get during the whole month of January.

Although it will be too soggy to do much (if anything) outside, there are still plenty of ideas to keep us busy gardening while staying warm and dry:

* Browse seed catalogs and websites – then order now! Many companies are reporting seed shortages, particularly of the most popular varieties. Also in short supply: Fruit trees.

* Before ordering more, review your seed stock on hand. Gardeners tend to buy way more seed than they plant. Although packages are marked for their intended planting season, many seed varieties are still viable for two or three years (or more) past that date.

* Not sure those leftover seeds are viable? Test them. Wrap a few seeds in a damp paper towel. Tuck it inside a plastic bag. Wait three or four days, then check to see if that seed sprouted. Some varieties take a week to 10 days to finally sprout, so you may need to be patient. But if there’s no sign of life after 10 days, that seed has likely lost its viability.

* Start seed indoors. Besides such summer staples as tomatoes and peppers, other veggies also appreciate a head start including lettuce and chard. Those leafy greens will grow quickly once transplanted outdoors in late February.

* Start herb seeds. Parsley, cilantro, chives, basil and many other herbs can be started indoors before moving to the garden. Another bonus: Some herbs can stay on the windowsill and grow there.

* Clean and sharpen tools. Particularly if you’ve been doing a lot of pruning, your tools could use some TLC. Sharpen blades with a knife-sharpening tool. Also, sanitize those blades with Lysol, bleach or other antibacterial cleaner to kill fungal disease. Otherwise, you may unknowingly spread fungal spores to healthy plants.

* Pay some attention to your houseplants. After weeks of winter air, they probably could use some dusting. Trim off browned leaves. If you’re feeling really energetic, repot those houseplants that have outgrown their containers.

* It’s not too late to start a garden journal. Note your observations on your 2020 garden (before you totally forget), while also recording planting, transplanting, harvest dates and other information for this year.


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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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