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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Jan. 7

Rain and frost fill Sacramento’s forecast

A McCartney rose bud, doused with raindrops and showing signs of botrytis, is silhouetted against Saturday's rain clouds. The time to prune roses is now -- but preferably not in the rain.

A McCartney rose bud, doused with raindrops and showing signs of botrytis, is silhouetted against Saturday's rain clouds. The time to prune roses is now -- but preferably not in the rain. Kathy Morrison

Keep your umbrellas and frost cloths handy. Winter has finally arrived.

Rain (albeit light) and frost fill this week’s forecast, according to the National Weather Service. Unlike December’s relatively warm storms, these systems are coming from Alaska – and mighty chilly.

After Saturday’s showers, more rain is expected Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. But these storms will be hit or miss in the valley; as of Saturday (Jan. 6), the weather service predicts a total of only 0.47 inches for downtown Sacramento for the whole week.

Meanwhile, overnight lows are expected to dip into the 30s almost every night. Frost warnings will be in effect for Sunday and Monday mornings. Be prepared and protect plants before the sun goes down.

Saturday’s rain will help protect frost-sensitive plants, too. Moist soil tends to keep the surrounding air (and plant roots) up to five degrees warmer – just enough to avoid damage.

Daytime temperatures will be on the cool side, too. Tuesday will be our warmest afternoon, topping out at 53 degrees, says the weather service.

Concentrate on getting outdoor chores out of the way on Sunday and Monday, then settle in with some indoor gardening activities such as sharpening tools or sorting old seeds.

* 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 fruit trees except apricots, cherries or citrus. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* 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.

* Don’t apply any horticultural oils this week. It’s too wet. Oils need at least 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

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

* If bare-root plants arrive via mail, unpack them immediately and soak their roots in water. They can stay that way for several days until ready to plant.

* Don’t transplant bare-root plants into soggy ground; they can rot. Instead, pot them up in containers with potting soil. They’ll develop strong roots and can be put in the ground in March or April.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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