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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 June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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