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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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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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