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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 16



Flowering pear trees are in bloom all over, adding to the springlike atmosphere. What you can't easily see here are the dozen or more happy bees flitting among the blossoms. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Spring-like weather is a hurry-up call



Recent days have felt more like Southern California than Sacramento in February. Twice, high temperatures tied records and flirted with the mark for hottest day in a Sacramento February – 76 degrees.

It really does feel like an early spring. According to the National Weather Service, we should continue to enjoy mild, dry days in the mid to high 60s.

That’s just hot enough to bring on rapid growth throughout the garden – and early spring blooms. Flowering pears create a fragrant (sometimes stinky) cloud over Sacramento streets. Daffodils are popping up everywhere.

Those flowers are a reminder: Any remaining winter chores need to be tackled right now. That includes spraying peaches and pruning roses.

Copper spray helps control leaf curl on peaches and nectarines. (If your tree had deformed leaves and sunburned fruit last season, leaf curl likely was the cause.)

Even though roses may have started new growth, still do it; it pays off in better disease control. Don’t be drastic in your pruning; concentrate on removing some top growth, dead wood and crossing canes.

Dig into spring prep: Prepare planting beds or build new ones. Add compost to soil. Renew mulch.

Most of all, enjoy the weather.

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer.

* Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

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

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

* Plant summer-flowering bulbs including cannas, calla lilies and gladiolus.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

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

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

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

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

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

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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