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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of May 5


Bedstraw, which has a number of other nicknames,  is an ornery weed -- pull it out before it forms its burrs (seedpods). (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Watch out for weeds; catch them while they’re young



May is grow time in Sacramento. Daytime highs average 80 degrees, perfect for many plants.

That includes weeds. They seem to spring out of nowhere and can quickly crowd out seedlings and new transplants.

One of the fastest-growing and most annoying weeds in Sacramento right now is bedstraw ( Gallium aparine ). This weed has many other nicknames including cleavers, catchweed, sticky weed and goosegrass. (Geese love to munch on this edible weed and deposit its seeds wherever they go.)

Bedstraw is covered with sticky hairs that catch onto whatever brushes its stems. (Hence, some of those nicknames.) If allowed, this weed forms tiny burrs, which are its seedpods. Those burrs seem to gravitate onto pets and are a pain to get out of fur. They also readily attach themselves to socks and pant legs. Interestingly, bedstraw is a relative of coffee, and those burrs contain caffeine. They’ve been used as a coffee substitute.

No matter; don’t sleep on bedstraw eradication or it will keep you up at night.

Meanwhile, kick your gardening into high gear:

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. Time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed into the garden melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters. (You also can transplant seedlings for many of the same flowers.)

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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