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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Nov. 26

Freeze warning remains in effect through Monday morning; take frost precautions

Get that multitude of leaves out of the gutter and put them to work. They make excellent mulch to keep roots warm, or at the very least they can become compost.

Get that multitude of leaves out of the gutter and put them to work. They make excellent mulch to keep roots warm, or at the very least they can become compost. Kathy Morrison

Our first big chill of fall has us shivering. And more cold is on the way.

According to the National Weather Service, the greater Sacramento area may get pretty frosty the next few nights. A freeze warning remains in effect for much of the Central Valley.

“The Freeze Warning will continue this Sunday morning and Monday morning from 2 a.m. to 9 a.m.,” tweeted the NWS Sacramento office on Saturday morning. “Temps in the Valley may get as low as 28°-35°. These temps can damage plants that are sensitive to cold, as well as impact unhoused populations, pets and those without access to proper heating.”

This may seem too early for frost, but Sacramento temperatures can plunge below freezing any time between November and March. Sacramento’s record for earliest frost (30 degrees) was Nov. 4, 1935. On average, our first real frost hits Dec. 10, according to the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Sacramento County.

Overnight lows will dip down to the low 30s – 10 degrees below average; make sure to take frost precautions in the late afternoon before the cold starts to set in.

Daytime highs will be below normal, too. Sacramento is expected to reach only 60 degrees Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before cooling off into the 50s the remainder of the week.

A slight chance of showers Wednesday and Thursday enters the forecast along with a lot of clouds. That cloud cover will warm up overnight temperatures to the mere 40s instead of flirting with freezing.

Fortunately, soil is still feeling more like fall than winter. It’s not too late to do some cool-season planting.

Otherwise, concentrate on helping your garden stay comfortable during these frosty nights – and clean up all those leaves!

* Irrigate frost-tender plants such as citrus in the late afternoon. That extra soil moisture increases temperatures around the plant a few degrees, just enough to prevent frost damage. The exception are succulents; too much water before frost can cause them to freeze.

* Cover sensitive plants before the sun goes down. Use cloth sheets or frost cloths, not plastic sheeting, to hold in warmth. Make sure to remove covers in the morning.

* Use fall leaves as mulch around shrubs and vegetables. Mulch acts as a blanket and keeps roots warmer.

* Stop deadheading; let rose hips form on bushes to prompt dormancy.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location – and definitely indoors overnight. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they’ll bloom again next December.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Plant spring bulbs. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Daffodils can be planted without pre-chilling.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Plant trees and shrubs. They’ll benefit from fall and winter rains while establishing their roots.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins now. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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