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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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