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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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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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