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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 30

A peach mummy hangs on a Babcock peach tree. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)
Watch out for 'mummies'; good time to prune and spray peaches

On this last December weekend, be on the lookout for mummies.

Peach mummies, to be specific. Clinging determinedly to branches, these strange shriveled black petrified fruit are full of fungal spores. Until the leaves fall, a peach mummy (or mummy peach) can be easily overlooked. But if a peach or nectarine tree bore brown-spotted fruit that quickly went bad, it most likely had brown rot. Those mummies are a sure sign.

Another symptom are blossoms that wilt or brown before bees have a chance to pollinate. That usually happens during wet springs followed by a summer with few peaches. Brown rot spores are again to blame.

Next to leaf curl, brown rot is among the most common peach tree problems in Sacramento. Fortunately, it's easily preventable. Get rid of the mummies.

Copper fungicide, the same treatment used to prevent peach leaf curl, also fights brown rot. A single application now can control both for 2019. These last days of 2018 look like ideal conditions for peach and nectarine tree maintenance. After the wind dies down, dry and clear weather is forecast until next Sunday.

If needed, prune before spraying. Remove any remaining leaves and those mummies. Dispose (don't compost) leaves and any infected twigs. After pruning, sterilize your pruners and loppers with disinfectant spray or wipes (Lysol works fine) or dip the blades in a gallon of water with 1/4 cup bleach.

Other gardening tasks for this final weekend of 2018:
* Clean and sharpen garden tools. You'll use those pruners a lot this season.
* Mulch, water and cover tender plants to protect them during threat of frost. Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.
* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees.
* Plant bare-root perennials, roses and fruit trees. Also available bare-root are berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.
* It's not too late to plant a winter garden. Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli can be planted now; use transplants for best success. Plant garlic and onions.
* Add a few more cool-weather annuals such as pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and stock.


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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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