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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 20

Expect to see changes in your garden as winter officially begins

Pruning shears cutting a rose cane
Even if they're still trying to bloom, start pruning your roses now. Strip off
any remaining leaves, too. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)





Foggy nights and chilly mornings; welcome to winter in Sacramento!

A new season starts Monday with a crisp, cool forecast now through Christmas. According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento will see afternoon highs hovering around 59 degrees and overnight lows dipping to almost freezing but not quite.

With ground still damp from recent rain, that combination creates perfect conditions for fog, which will settle into the valley for the next few nights. All that moisture will speed up fungal diseases such as botrytis.

Expect to see sudden changes in your garden. Although many deciduous plants have been holding onto their foliage and acting like it’s still October instead of almost January, they’ll stop dropping leaves in bunches now and quickly slip into dormancy.

Make the most of this pre-Christmas week. Work off some calories and show your garden some TLC.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. It’s easier to see their structure without their leaves.

* Start pruning roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

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

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

* The first day of winter is the shortest day of the year – a great time to plant garlic and onions for harvest in summer.

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

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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