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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 Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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