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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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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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