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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 17

Yes, we have received a lot of rain lately -- as this container that still needs drainholes (oops) illustrates. Use the breaks between storms to check around your garden for water accumulating where it shouldn't. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Soggy soil puts brakes on planting; wait for sun

So far, February has been wet and wild. Storms have delivered more than 4 inches of rain, double normal for this same two-week period. Hail on Friday was a harsh reminder that it’s still winter and not close to tomato planting season.

By comparison, early February in 2018 was bone dry without a trace of precipitation.

The good news: These storms have replenished the Sierra snowpack and pushed our water year way up. Sacramento is now tracking 1.5 inches above average.

Although dry weather is forecast for most of this week, temperatures are still expected to be below normal, with daytime highs in the 50s, not 60s. That can slow spring growth, especially with seedlings or young transplants.

Postpone planting or any other digging this week until soil has a chance to dry out, too. Working wet ground can cause compaction and root problems.

While waiting for the sun, tackle these garden tasks:

* How will all this rain affect your garden? Take notes. Start a garden journal or jot observations on a calendar.

Tomato seeds still can be started now, but don't
delay if you aim to plant in early April.
* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees, shrubs or perennials in containers as a temporary home while the soil dries. Black plastic works well and warms quickly, prompting rapid root growth. Then, transplant the whole rootball into the ground.

* Make sure storm drains, gutters and down spouts are clear of debris. These storms brought down a lot of tree litter from evergreens.

* Tip excess water out of containers. Make sure potted plants aren’t waterlogged.

* Plan your summer garden. Order or shop for seed for spring planting.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

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

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* 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 help corral blossom 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.

* 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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