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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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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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