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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Aug. 23

Prepare for more dry lightning storms (and smoke)

"When thunder roars, go indoors." That's the advice of the National Weather Service this weekend as another round of dry thunderstorms head our way.

Rose leaf with ash
Ash from the wildfires accumulates on a rose leaf. Give plants a rinse in the
morning to get rid of the smoky residue. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

From Sunday through Tuesday, dangerous weather systems will be blowing across Northern California. The NWS says expect "frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, little to no rain, gusty and erratic winds." Extremely high fire danger is also forecast.

Plus it will be hot with afternoon temperatures still in the high 90s.

A similar storm system brought disastrous consequences last weekend as more than 12,000 lightning strikes touched off about 550 fires, according to CalFire. Smoke from ongoing wildfires, including two of the biggest in California history, still chokes the air throughout the Central Valley.

Concentrate gardening time in the early morning, when temperatures are cooler:

* Water deeply. Give shrubs and trees a deep soaking. Container plants may need daily watering.
* Got ash? Give your plants a gentle morning shower, rinsing off the accumulated grime from leaves.
* To remove the gritty ash from your harvest, gently scrub fruit and vegetables with a vegetable brush and a little dish soap. Fully submerge leafy greens in water with a teaspoon of dish soap, then rinse.
* Don't fertilize. Under these weather conditions, feeding can add to stress to plants instead of promoting growth.
* Tomatoes won't turn fully red during high temperatures. Pick mature tomatoes and let them ripen (and redden) on the kitchen counter.
* Watch out for sunburn. Shade tomatoes, peppers and eggplant still on the vine.
* Pick up and discard fallen fruit and decaying vegetables to avoid pest problems.
* Get to work on your cool-season garden. Plant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and other winter favorites indoors. Transplant seedling outdoors in September.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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