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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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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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