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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 8

New year starts out soggy (or worse)

Got seed catalogs? The expected wet weather this next week makes it a good time to do some armchair seed shopping.

Got seed catalogs? The expected wet weather this next week makes it a good time to do some armchair seed shopping. Kathy Morrison

Expect to get wet – really wet. That’s the forecast for this week from the National Weather Service.

After a predicted half inch to an inch of rain on Saturday night, Sacramento will get drenched by a huge storm system, expected to arrive early Monday. That two-day deluge is expected to drop an estimated 3.3 inches before we get some brief relief Wednesday. More storms are expected to roll through on Thursday and Friday.

That makes the chance of flooding very real for the greater Sacramento area.

“A Flood Watch has been issued for most of interior NorCal late Saturday night through Wednesday,” says the weather service. “Moderate to heavy rainfall may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and flood-prone areas with flood impacts lingering into Wednesday. Never drive across flooded roads!”

We’ve already seen that potential danger. In our New Year’s Eve storm, at least three people died in south Sacramento County while driving on flooded roads or highways.

This heavy rain and flooding comes from an Atmospheric River, which sucks water from Pacific tropics and carries it inland to California and beyond. Because the water is from the tropics (and not Alaska), the weather feels relatively warm – in the 50s, not 30s or 40s. The highs this week will hover around 60 degrees.

“What’s an Atmospheric River?” tweeted the Sacramento NWS office. “They are long, narrow corridors in the atmosphere that transport large amounts of water vapor from the tropics. High and low pressure steer these rivers, which bring much of California’s rain.”

After this wet week, more rain is in our January forecast, says the weather service. “The 8- to 14-day Precipitation Outlook valid from Jan. 14th through Jan. 20th points to a high likelihood of above normal precipitation for the interior NorCal region.”

So much early rain can be deceiving. In 2022, Sacramento saw little rain after Jan. 5 and experienced what turned out to be the driest spring in the city’s recorded history.

For the record book, January averages 3.64 inches in Sacramento. We likely will pass that total by next weekend.

January in Sacramento tends to be relatively warm with average afternoon highs of 54, but nights can get frosty cold. Our January average overnight low is 39 degrees.

Between storms, what should you do?

* Keep the sprinklers and other irrigation off for at least another week (probably more).

* During these storms, notice where water pools or runs through your landscape. That may be a good spot for a rain garden or other water feature. (Make sure water doesn’t collect next to buildings or foundations.)

* Be careful of soggy soil; it compacts easily. Avoid walking in mud.

* Don’t plant in waterlogged ground; let it drain first.

* Got bare-root plants waiting to go into the ground? Most can be kept in a bucket or tub of water for up to a week. Or plant in 5-gallon pots with potting mix, then transplant into the garden in March after soil has dried out. That method also allows roots to get a head start before spring.

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune most deciduous fruit trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Browse through seed catalogs and start making plans for spring and summer.


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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* 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 needs nutrients. Fertilize 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.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* 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.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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