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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 1


Whether or not the sun is out, cyclamen add bright holiday color to the garden. They are excellent indoor plants, too. They go dormant in summer months. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Soggy start to a new month; get used to it


A new month opens with a soggy weekend -- just what we needed.

Sacramento's rain year, which started Oct. 1, had gotten off to a very dry start. Recent rains have been our first since mid-September. December averages 3.25 inches of precipitation, so this week's storms are just the beginning of what should be a moist month.

Temperature wise, the high temperature during our December days averages 54 degrees with overnight lows of 38 degrees. Get out the sweaters and keep frost cloths handy.

We can have warm days as well as chilly nights. Our December high and low records are 72 and 18 degrees, respectfully.

Meanwhile, here's what to do in your early December garden:

* Bare-root season has begun. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root 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, cyclamen, 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.
* 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 eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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