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Now with a break in the rain

Oops, that saucer should be emptied, then removed. The leaves crowding the plant probably should be cleared
out, too. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)
5 chores that will help your garden before the next storm

Quick, it's not raining: Get outside and check on things before the rain starts up again Friday afternoon or this weekend. The Sacramento area's received roughly 3 inches of rain in the past seven days and we're barely into December.
-- Search for and pick up large twigs or branches that have fallen or been blown out of trees, especially ones that have landed on top of tender plants. Also, look up into the trees to see if there are other loose branches within reach that you can pull down.
-- Is water collecting in container saucers? Dump it out now so that plant can get a break from the sogginess. Better yet, take the plant out of the saucer for now.
-- Another container check: Are there so many leaves on the soil surface that raindrops can't get through to the soil and the plant's roots? (They're probably draining down the sidesĀ  or -- eek! -- not draining at all.) Some leaves are OK, but not when they create an organic tarp.
-- Any puddles remaining even though the rain's stopped? There might be a drainage problem in that part of the garden. Depending on the size and location, you could hoe a temporary drainage ditch away from it or add some garden soil. Or just make a note to keep an eye on it -- especially if there haven't been issues in that spot previously.
-- Check that leaf piles aren't blocking the flow of water in the street gutter. Even better, take a walk around the block and, with a stick or a plant stake, push leaves away from the gutter drains just enough so water won't back up there. Help the neighborhood avoid flooding.


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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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