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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 29

Autumn Joy stonecrop ( Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy') is a sturdy perennial and a good choice for fall planting. The flower clusters start out pink, then age to a rosy russet in fall. This specimen grows in the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Fall is for planting -- so what are you waiting for?

You hear this motto often from Sacramento plant people: Fall is for planting.

Warm soil, cooler weather, maybe a little rain; conditions are ideal for putting new plants in the ground or moving things around.

It's no coincidence so many plant sales and gardening events are held during these first weeks of autumn. (Just check out our
garden calendar .) And the weather is cooperating, too, with this week's high temperatures forecast in the 70s and 80s.

So, hit the dirt!

* October is the best month to plant perennials in our area. (The last weekend of September works, too.) Add a little well-aged compost and bone meal (or rock phosphate) to the planting hole, but hold off on other fertilizers until spring. Keep the transplants well-watered, but not wet, for the first month as they become settled.
* This is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. Follow the same advice as perennials.
* Now is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturtium, nigella, poppy, portulaca, sweet pea and stock.
* In the vegetable garden, plant seeds for radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas. Plant garlic and onions.
* Set out cool-weather bedding plants, including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.
* Dig up corms and tubers of gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies. Clean and store in a cool, dry place.
* Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves are yellowing between the veins.
* Clean up the summer vegetable garden and compost disease-free foliage.
* Harvest pumpkins and winter squash.


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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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