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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of Sept. 30

October is prime time for planting in Sacramento

Cheery violas can be planted now, as well as other cool-weather bedding annuals. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Feel that wonderful cool air? That's October weather; warm enough to keep the soil cozy, yet with a refreshing breeze. And on the horizon? Possible rain.

It makes for ideal planting conditions for a wide range of plants, from cool-weather annuals and vegetables to major trees and shrubs.

If you're thinking about a landscape make-over or just a few minor tweaks, this is the time to do it. October is a sweet spot for garden success.

Why? Ideal weather for transplanting before winter. In Sacramento, the average high temperature for October is 78 degrees with an average low of 50. Days can soar back into the triple-digits, but only briefly. Then, they settle back quickly into fall.

October also starts the "rainy season," averaging just below an inch. Historically, that precipitation comes in small polite doses, from storms on their way east. That helps new transplants settle in nicely into that still-warm and comfortable soil.

All those factors help plants become established quicker with less stress -- for them and gardeners.
Here are suggestions for a very busy garden week and month:

* Undoubtedly, October is the best month to plant perennials in our area. Add a little well-aged compost and bone meal to the planting hole, but hold off on other fertilizers until spring.
Because rain will not be enough this month, keep the transplants well-watered (but not wet) for the first month as they become settled.

* It's also perfect conditions for transplanting many California natives. It gives them that opportunity to put down roots and get established over winter.

* Now also is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturtium, nigella, poppy, portulaca, sweet pea and stocks.

* Plant spring bulbs. Daffodils and Dutch iris can go directly in the ground without pre-chilling.

* Set out cool-weather bedding plants, including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

* Reseed and feed the lawn. Work on bare spots.

* Or consider taking lawn out to replace with more water-efficient landscaping.

*In the vegetable garden, plant seeds for radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas. Plant garlic and onions.

*Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and lettuce seedlings.


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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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