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With rain above average, is your garden soggy?

Do you have spots in your garden that look like this after the rain has stopped? Work on leveling the soil after it has dried out a bit. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

December storms may have challenged drainage

As hoped for, December’s rainy days have put our water year back on track. And more storms are in the forecast.

How is your garden handling the rain?

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento’s precipitation totals are now “above normal”; just slightly – 0.15 inches – but definitely positive.

Through Monday’s storms, our rain season to date tops 4 inches; 4.25 inches at Sacramento Executive Airport, a little higher or lower in different neighborhoods. That includes more than 1.8 inches in December. Normal for the month is 3.27 inches; that looks well within range.

More rain is in the forecast Friday and Monday, Christmas Eve. That leaves two windows of gardening opportunity. Thursday will be the best chance to get things done.

* Get out in the garden and access its situation. Look for spots with poor drainage, where rain accumulates and creates soggy or waterlogged conditions. When the soil has dried sufficiently (maybe not this week), add some compost, well-rotted manure or peat moss. Consider raising those low spots with raised beds.

* Is water flowing off the roof and away from the house? Even if you cleaned the gutters, December’s heavy leaf drop may have put more stuff on your house. Get accumulated leaves and debris out of roof valleys, gutters and down spouts. Make sure water does not accumulate around the foundation.

* Make sure storm drains are clear of leaves or leaf piles (especially in Sacramento streets, awaiting The Claw).

* Have you planted drought-tolerant plants or California natives? Most of these water savers don’t like soggy roots. Make sure they’re getting good drainage without standing water near their trunks or crowns.

* Soft soil is good for transplanting trees and shrubs, but don’t plant in soggy soil. Wait until it dries a little. How do you tell the difference between moist and soggy? Moist soil tends to cling together when squeezed into a ball; soggy soil drips when squeezed.

* Just because it rained, not everything got watered. Check plants under eaves or heavy tree canopy.

* Empty standing water in pot saucers. Remove the saucers from plants kept outdoors without cover.

* Watch out for mosquitoes. Some have hatched; others are looking for a place to hibernate indoors. They all bite. Wear long sleeves and long pants when working outdoors.

* All this rain is saving money. Turn off the sprinklers and keep them off, at least through Jan. 1. Then, we’ll see what rain January brings.


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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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