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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 sides  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 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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