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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 Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* 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 eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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