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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Dec. 31

New Year starts like the old year ends — kind of soggy

Oranges should be getting ripe about now, but "store" them on the tree until needed -- they'll get sweeter.

Oranges should be getting ripe about now, but "store" them on the tree until needed -- they'll get sweeter. Kathy Morrison

Thanks to storms before and after Christmas, we’re back on track for an above-average water year.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento received almost 4.5 inches for December as of midnight Friday (Dec. 29); that’s more than an inch above average for the month – and doesn’t count Saturday’s showers.

More rain is in the forecast with possible storms coming through Tuesday night into Wednesday and again on Friday, says the weather service. That could make for some pretty soggy soil; be careful where you step in your garden. Soil can compact easily in these conditions. If it’s too wet, put off any digging until next week.

Temperatures will remain on the warm side for New Year’s in Sacramento. The weather service predicts afternoon highs mostly in the upper 50s with lows in the 40s; averages for this week are 54 and 39 degrees, respectively.

Between storms, we can expect some sunny breaks and opportunities to get outside. It’s time to show our gardens some New Year TLC.

* These storms likely knocked down the last leaves from trees. Rake them away from drains. Make sure to keep gutters clear.

* Rake dead leaves away from perennials. Cut back and divide chrysanthemums. Divide day lilies, Shasta daisies and other clumps.

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune most deciduous fruit trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Don’t apply horticultural oils or copper sprays this week; there’s too much moisture for them to be effective. Wait until we have more consecutive days of sun.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* When forced bulbs sprout, move them to a cool, bright window. Give them a quarter turn each day so the stems will grow straight.

* Browse through seed catalogs and start making plans for spring and summer.


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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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