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Return of the Claw: Help for leaf season is on its way

Find out when street pick-up starts in your Sacramento neighborhood

The Claw is already back in action around the city of Sacramento, and will be through Jan. 29.

The Claw is already back in action around the city of Sacramento, and will be through Jan. 29. Courtesy City of Sacramento

The Claw is back!

It’s leaf season in Sacramento, which means the return of the Claw – probably the most beloved piece of heavy equipment in the city.

Now through Jan. 29, the Claw – Sacramento’s specialized articulated tractor – will be scooping up leaf piles on city streets. Pick-ups officially started Wednesday.

On average, each household will get about seven visits from the Claw, estimate city officials. Residents can find out when the Claw will be in their neighborhood with the Claw calendar, available on Sacramento’s official Leaf Season webpage, www.SacLeafSmart.org. Just put in your street address and the online calendar will tell you when to expect the Claw in your neighborhood.

In all, the Claw crews expect to pick up about 20,000 tons of green waste this season. Besides leaves, branches and other pruning debris are also accepted. (No tree stumps allowed.)

Although organic food waste (along with leaves and yard debris) now goes in the green-waste container, don’t dump food waste or paper into leaf piles. The Claw won’t pick them up. Instead, put such organic waste in the green-waste container.

In fact, city officials prefer that residents put as much as they can into the green-waste container before putting piles in the street. Green-waste containers will be picked up 13 times before that Jan. 29 cutoff.

Here are more leaf season tips:

* Leaf piles can be no bigger than 4 by 4 by 9 feet (and just one per household). Make sure there is space between the pile and the curb so water can flow down the gutter. Also, place the pile at least 6 feet away from cars, boats, basketball hoops or other obstructions. The Claw needs room to maneuver.

* Don’t put plastic bags in street piles (including bags full of leaves).

* And don’t contaminate the leaf pile with trash or dog poop (a common problem).

For more information: SacLeafSmart.org.

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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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