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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Nov. 11


The weather and smoke together are shutting down Sacramento gardeners' tomato vines. Time to p ick or compost your unripened tomatoes. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)


Time to pull vines; smoke and colder weather halt tomato production



Time to give up on Christmas tomatoes.
Spread in a single layer, green
tomatoes will ripen off the vine.


Heavy smoke and changing weather patterns plunged temperatures from 10 to 15 degrees above normal in the Sacramento region just a week ago to five degrees below normal. In addition, overnight temperatures are dipping into the very low 40s.

So, all those tomato vines that pushed out new blooms just wasted their energy. Wildfire smoke will keep bees inactive, so those yellow flowers won't get pollinated. And the temperatures have cooled off so much, the fruit won't set or develop.

So, if you haven't already, pull the vines.

What to do with those green tomatoes? If they've grown enough to develop seed sacs inside, they likely will ripen off the vine. Place in a single layer in a warm dry place (such as the kitchen counter). They'll take a few weeks to turn fully red. Maybe, there will be Christmas tomatoes after all.

(Don't want to wait? Kathy will have a recipe in Sunday's post that uses green tomatoes.)

That wildfire smoke makes it unhealthful to be outdoors. But when and if the smoke clears, here are some tasks that may need attention:

* To help prevent leaf curl, apply a copper fungicide spray to peach and nectarine trees after they lose their leaves. Leaf curl, which shows up in the spring, is caused by a fungus that winters as spores on the limbs and around the tree in fallen leaves. Sprays are most effective now.

* Give your azaleas, gardenias and camellias a boost with chelated iron.

* Keep planting bulbs to spread out your spring bloom. Some possible suggestions: daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, tulips, anemones and scillas.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Now 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.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

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

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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