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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 Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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