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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 Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

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

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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