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Locally produced gardening calendar a helpful gift all year long

Sacramento, Placer master gardeners stuff these guides with useful information

Great minds think alike! The two gardening guides both have 2024 covers with bees and native flowering plants. But the content is different -- and tailored for each growing area.

Great minds think alike! The two gardening guides both have 2024 covers with bees and native flowering plants. But the content is different -- and tailored for each growing area. Kathy Morrison

We have just one month until the 2024 gardening season begins. And there's even less time to shop for holiday gifts for gardener friends and relatives.

Here's my best suggestion to cover both situations: Get yourself -- and those gardening gift recipients -- a 2024 Gardening Guide and Calendar. Both the Sacramento and Placer counties' master gardener groups produce stunning and incredibly useful versions, tailored to the gardens in our region. (Full disclosure: I'm one of the contributing writers to the Sacramento version.)

The price is right, just $12 each including sales tax, and available online or at area nurseries/retail outlets. Sacramento's can be ordered here; the retail sellers are listed on the same page. Placer's order page is here, which also includes a link to the retailers carrying it in Placer, Nevada and El Dorado counties. 

Prices for calendars purchased at retailers may be slightly higher; online orders include postage costs.

Both gardening guides are fundraisers to support these busy master gardener programs, which rely tremendously on volunteers and donations.

If you want to order online, I would hurry and do it before Dec. 8. I've heard though the grapevine that UC Agriculture and Natural Resources  -- the UC Cooperative Extension's umbrella department -- will be moving its servers to a new data center Dec. 8-10, so the websites will be down for that period.

So what's in these calendars? The Sacramento guide for 2024 focuses on "Habitat Gardening, " with calendar pages devoted to plants that benefit wildlife. January, for example, focuses on native oaks, a "keystone species" for California birds, butterflies and other insects. Behind the calendar pages is essentially a mini course on habitat gardening, discussing plant families, beneficials, local habitats to visit and bird-friendly practices. The Sacramento month-by-month planting chart is a standard part of the annual guide.

The Placer master gardeners in their Valley- and foothills-tailored guide suggest "Try Something New." February's article, for example, looks at "Redefining Your Garden," perfect for the time of year when planning rather than planting is a gardener's primary activity. April's page discusses "Succulents in Small Spaces," certainly a great topic for folks with limited growing space.

Both guides are like having a master gardener in your back pocket, plus an at-your-fingertips place to record weather notes, monthly reminders and quarterly garden duties. (Sprayed your peach trees yet?) I really couldn't garden without mine!

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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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