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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 Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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