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How to keep your garden afloat in atmospheric river

Up to 3 inches of rain expected in Sacramento

Saturated soil can lead to all kinds of problems. Also, avoid walking on wet soil -- it can easily be compacted.

Saturated soil can lead to all kinds of problems. Also, avoid walking on wet soil -- it can easily be compacted. Kathy Morrison

After years of drought, are you ready for a flood?

Water may not reach flood stage in your neighborhood, but the incoming “atmospheric river” is expected to give the greater Sacramento area a massive soaking – and the possibility of widespread flooding.

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued an “area flood watch,” lasting from 7 a.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Sunday, New Year’s Day.

The rain will actually start Thursday morning with a “definite” chance of showers before dawn and again in the late afternoon, says the weather service. Thursday’s predicted rain total for Sacramento is just under an inch. But that’s followed by almost 2 inches on Friday and Saturday.

That’s a lot of rain for soil to absorb in less than 72 hours.

“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” says the weather service. “Creeks and streams may rise out of their banks. Flooding may occur in poor drainage and urban areas. Low-water crossings may be flooded. Storm drains and ditches may become clogged with debris. Extensive street flooding and flooding of creeks and rivers are possible.”

Part of what makes this incoming storm so problematic is we’re already wet. The storm that arrived late Monday dropped 1.26 inches on Sacramento, and more on some surrounding communities. Local creeks are running high, notes the weather service.

Saturated soil can lead to other issues. Be on the lookout for leaning trees. Many trees and large shrubs have weakened roots due to the effects of prolonged drought. They’re more likely to fall in stormy weather.

Also at risk are large, horizontal branches on evergreen trees. So much rain adds a lot of weight. Such branches may need support.

Be prepared for this week’s deluge and help your landscape cope:

* Turn off your sprinklers or other irrigation; your garden won’t need it for a while.

* Make sure storm drains are clear. Rake leaves and debris away from drains.

* Remove saucers from potted plants to avoid root rot.

* Succulents are most at risk in such wet weather. They get too much rain, they rot. Move them to a sheltered location if possible.

* Avoid walking on or working wet soil. It can compact easily, squeezing out needed air for microbes and roots. Put off any transplanting until next week after the soil has drained but remains moist. Don’t plant in soggy soil.

* If you have bare-root plants in need of transplanting, keep them in sawdust or put their roots in a bucket of water. They can stay in water for several days.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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