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Resolutions for gardeners: Have more fun

Tips to help make 2023 your best gardening year

Resolve to bring more pollinators into your garden with plants such as lavender.

Resolve to bring more pollinators into your garden with plants such as lavender. Kathy Morrison

Happy new year! Now what?

These past 12 months have been challenging for our gardens – something we can say about all drought years. How can we make 2023 better? Be prepared. Plan ahead. Have more fun.

We can’t control the weather (if we could, we would). But as we get drenched by an atmospheric river to close out 2022, our prospects for a “normal” water year at least look promising.

We thought the same thing last December when heavy rain brought declarations that our drought days were over. Then, we experienced the driest spring in Sacramento history.

Tradition dictates that it’s time to look ahead with resolve. But to do what? For us gardeners, these simple resolutions will make our lives easier and help our gardens thrive – no matter the weather.

1. Take notes. Be observant and write down what you see. Your landscape is changing. (Trees and shrubs grow; sunny spaces turn to shade.) You may need to make adjustments. Also, note what varieties did well, which didn’t. (This is key to veggie success.)

2. Use a calendar. Paper or digital, calendars are handy for jotting down those notes and keeping track of dates. For example, when did you plant seeds or transplants? When did you harvest your first tomato? You can refer to those dates later when making decisions about next season. (Tip: Get a master gardener calendar; it comes packed with monthly reminders.)

3. Do things at the right time. Plant, prune, fertilize, harvest; gardening is all about timing. For example, plants need important nutrients at critical steps in their development. Figure out in advance when you should feed certain plants (and mark it on that calendar!)

4. Install a smart controller and upgrade irrigation. Never have your sprinklers come on again during a storm. If you haven’t done this yet, now is the time. Water providers have rebates available for upgrading your irrigation technology. It will make your life simpler (and save water and money, too). For rebates: www.bewatersmart.info.

5. Invite wildlife into your garden and enjoy the show. Plant nectar- and pollen-filled flowers that hummingbirds, bees and butterflies love. Other birds like berries and seeds; they appreciate bushes that provide them a feast. Make them feel at home, too. Besides plants, provide a bird feeder, bird bath or bee house. For yourself, put a comfortable chair or bench in a spot where you can watch the antics of visiting winged friends. It’s a sure way to get more fun out of your garden space.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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