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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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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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