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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of April 16

Warmer days are enticing for tomato planting

These buds on a Meyer lemon tree will be blooming soon, a reminder that the tree will need a low dose of fertilizer to help set fruit.

These buds on a Meyer lemon tree will be blooming soon, a reminder that the tree will need a low dose of fertilizer to help set fruit. Kathy Morrison

“Can I plant my tomatoes now?”

After a very cool spring, gardeners throughout the Sacramento region are voicing that same concern. It may seem late, but actually nature is right on schedule.

Traditionally, tomato planting time in Sacramento is late April and the first two weeks of May. Even though air temperature is warming, soil temperature is staying chilly. And we’re in for a few more sub-par days.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento will be back in the low 60s Monday through Wednesday. The possibility of rain is minimal (less than 5%), but it will be breezy, especially Tuesday evening. Overnight lows will nudge 40 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The good news: Our spring warm-up is coming soon. We’ll be comfortably back in the 70s by Friday. Even better, overnight lows will warm up 10 degrees, too – much better for newly transplanted tomatoes.

So, if you can wait a week or two, your tomatoes will be much happier in their new homes. And happy tomatoes grow faster and healthier.

Meanwhile, take care of these other garden tasks:

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat.

* 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; they bring aphids.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

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

* Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer.

* 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.

* Weed! Tackle unwanted plants before they overwhelm their neighbors.

* Get ready to swing into action in the vegetable garden. As nights warm up over 50 degrees, start setting out tomato, pepper and eggplant transplants.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, 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.

* Plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and kale seedlings.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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