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Dig In: Checklist for week of March 17

Buttercup oxalis has a leaf like a shamrock.
This edible weed is a sure sign of spring.
(Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia)
Warm St. Patrick’s Day brings out spring green

Can you feel the green? With warmer weather, it’s only appropriate during St. Patrick’s Day weekend that our gardens seem to be greening up before our eyes.

While all that almost-spring growth is wonderful, it also attracts aphids. Knock them down with a strong spray of water from the hose. These soft-bodied critters can’t survive the fall.

Also troublesome now are quick-growing weeds. They’ll crowd out your newly sprouted veggies if you let them. Instead, pull those unwanted plants while they’re young. In particular, keep an eye out for bind weed. That morning glory cousin only gets tougher to eradicate if it gets a roothold.

One weed seems almost appropriate for St. Paddy’s Day:
Buttercup oxalis . This common bright-yellow flower has a leaf that looks a lot like a shamrock.

Also known as sourgrass, Bermuda oxalis or African wood-sorrel , this pretty but obnoxious oxalis appears after winter rain, then disappears as weather heats up. It’s actually an edible green and tastes a lot like sorrel (it’s a member of the wood sorrel family). A few shamrock-shaped leaves add a lemony edge to a salad. (Note: Like all oxalis, this plant contains oxalic acid, which can be toxic in large doses.)

With so much growth, your spring garden has worked up an appetite. Here’s what else you should keep an eye on this week:

*Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help contain petal blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit. To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Feed roses with a balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10, the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium available in that product). If pruned in January or February, they’re now forming their first blooms of spring.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs and trees after they bloom. Try using well-composted manure, spread 1-inch thick under the tree. This serves as both fertilizer and mulch, retaining moisture while cutting down on weeds.

* 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. Remember: Sacramento is now under two times-a-week watering rules.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and cole family plants, such as cabbage, broccoli, collards and kale.

* Seed radish, chard and beets directly into the ground. Plant onion sets.

* Harvest cabbage, broccoli, kale and lettuces before warm weather makes them go to seed.

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

* Shop for perennials. They can be transplanted now before the weather heats up.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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