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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 16

Red chard and green chard make a festive combination. Transplant it now, along with lettuce, peas, greens and cabbage. If you don't have space in the garden, chard does very well a pot. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)
Colder weather cues dormancy -- and pruning time

After such a warm fall, the weather in these final days before winter may seem chilly and dank, but it's actually normal for December in Sacramento. This month averages 56-degree days and 38-degree nights, right around what we've been seeing.

These colder temperatures cue deciduous trees and shrubs to start thinking about taking a long nap. If they haven't already dropped their leaves, they will -- very soon.

That dormancy cues a round of early winter chores. Here's what to do in between storms:

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.
* Prune deciduous fruit trees except apricots (they're pruned in August). Remove and dispose of any "mummy fruit" that clings to the branches; it's full of fungal disease.
* Spray peaches and nectarine trees with copper fungicide spray to prevent leaf curl. This treatment also helps fight brown rot and fire blight. It needs at least 24 hours of dry weather after spraying to be effective.
* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.
* Expecting company? Brighten the holiday garden with winter bloomers such as calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses. They'll add instant color and instant cheer.
* It's not too late to transplant trees, shrubs and perennials.
* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, chard, peas and greens.
* Plant from seed radishes, beets, leaf lettuce, greens, peas and fava beans.
* Friday is the first day of winter. That's also the shortest day of the year, the traditional time to plant garlic and onions for harvest in summer.
* Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. But beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.


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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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