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Dig In: Garden checklist for March 1


Berries, roses and annual flowers could use some fertilizer now. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)
Warmth prompts rapid spring growth



Will March finally give us some rain?

Typically, March delivers about 2.75 inches of precipitation. We could sure use it.

After the driest February on record in Sacramento, our gardens may be thirsty. Check soil moisture and start deep watering.

Following several days in the 70s (and some record-setting high temperatures), we’re expected to cool down to normal for this first week of March: days in the mid 60s and nights in the 40s.

Be ready for rapid changes. Highs can soar to the upper 80s and overnight lows may flirt with freezing. Our record low for March is 26 degrees. Sacramento’s traditional frost date (the last night to worry about sub-freezing cold) is March 20.

All this recent warmth has prompted an explosion of growth in the garden.

What tasks should top your list?

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

Got weeds? Sure, who doesn't? Get them out of there soon.
* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Start preparing 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 help corral blossom blight.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, collards 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 do well when transplanted now.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

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

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

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

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

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

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