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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 Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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