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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 17

Sacramento forecast calls for three days of steady rain

Get that rake busy, especially if  there are leaves in the gutter or up around the stems or trunks of dormant trees, shrubs and perennials. (But leave a least some of the leaves on open ground for insects and as weed-smothering mulch.)

Get that rake busy, especially if there are leaves in the gutter or up around the stems or trunks of dormant trees, shrubs and perennials. (But leave a least some of the leaves on open ground for insects and as weed-smothering mulch.) Kathy Morrison

Get ready for rain – for real, this time.

According to the National Weather Service, Northern California should expect three days of steady rain, coming soon. Sacramento could get 2 to 3 inches with this storm starting late Sunday night. For Monday and Tuesday, the weather service forecasts “definite rain showers and thunderstorms.”

Rain is expected to continue through Wednesday evening, tapering off through the day.

We need it. So far, December has yielded only 0.65 inches of rain in Sacramento. Normal for this month: 3.25 inches.

Temperatures will be on the mild side with highs hovering around 60 degrees each day. Overnight lows will be comparatively warm – 54 degrees on Tuesday and 52 on Wednesday. Sacramento’s average high for December is 54 degrees.

Those warmer-than-average temperatures reflect the origin of this winter storm; this is a slow-moving Pacific system coming from the west, not the north.

Tackle garden chores before the rain arrives. Afterwards, your landscape likely will be pretty soggy.

* Thursday is the first official day of winter and the shortest day of the year. After the soil dries a bit, it'll be a great time to plant garlic and onions for harvest in summer.

* Rake leaves away from gutters and storm drains.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

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

* Move poinsettias indoors and out of the rain. Keep them in a bright and warm location.

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

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees.

* Bare-root season is now in full force. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants. If you have bare-root plants that didn’t get into the ground before the storm, soak their roots in water or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. Bare-root roses, for example, can be kept in water up to a week.

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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the early hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.

* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes. 

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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