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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of May 10

Foil strips in the trees can help deter birds in fruit trees. (Photos:
Kathy Morrison)
With cooler weather on the horizon, get to work

May weather can be full of surprises and extremes. This week is an example.

After days in the high 90s, we'll plunge back into the low 70s by Tuesday. We may even get a little wet.

A weak storm system is headed our way, says the National Weather Service. But don't expect much precipitation; the forecast predicts less than one-tenth of an inch of rain for Sacramento -- not enough to turn off the sprinklers. The rain is supposed to show up sometime late Monday or early Tuesday.

Although this is one of our drier months, a little rain is normal for May; we average about 0.7 inches for the month.
Deadhead roses for continued bloom.

The cloud cover that comes with this week's storm will noticeably cool down our high temperatures -- making for great gardening weather. Most of this upcoming week will see afternoons in the low 80s with a pleasant breeze.

What to do? Catch up with your garden's rapid changes.

* 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.
* Are birds picking your fruit off trees before it’s ripe? Try hanging strips of aluminum foil on tree branches. The shiny, dangling strips help deter birds from making themselves at home.
* As spring-flowering shrubs finish blooming, give them a little pruning to shape them, removing old and dead wood. Lightly trim azaleas, fuchsias and marguerites for bushier plants.
* Add more mulch to conserve moisture and cut down on weeds. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle around trunks and main stems to avoid crown rot or other problems.
* It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. Time to set out tomato, eggplant and pepper transplants.
Baby basil plants! This is the perfect time to direct-seed basil as well as
melons, cucumbers, corn, pumpkins and summer squash.
* 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. (You also can transplant seedlings for many of the same flowers.)
* 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.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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