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More rain is coming soon -- how's the garden holding up?

Some trouble spots to look for before Saturday's storm

Oops, something knocked this small bucket to the ground, where it's been collecting water from recent rainstorms. Check around garden equipment as well as plants and drainpipes for water accumulation.

Oops, something knocked this small bucket to the ground, where it's been collecting water from recent rainstorms. Check around garden equipment as well as plants and drainpipes for water accumulation. Kathy Morrison

It was sunny and bright (and cold!) this morning after Wednesday's clamminess and a bit of rain, but clouds are due to return late this afternoon. And Saturday is expected to be wet, wet, wet all day as another storm rolls in.

There's just enough time walk around the garden for a between-storms checkup. But avoid walking on saturated soil: Stick to sidewalks or stepping stones, if possible. Here's what to look for:

* The last few storms likely showed where the low spots are in your landscape. Mark them with a stick, to remember where they are when the landscape dries out. Or if dogs or people might remove the stick, take a photograph of the location. Especially note to avoid planting anything in that spot that requires good drainage. Here's a link to an earlier post on garden problems that develop -- including crown rot -- when soil gets too much water.

* Depending on the size and location of puddles, you could hoe a temporary drainage ditch away from them or add some garden soil to soak up the water. Don't pack it, however.

* Consider soggy spots for a rain garden, where water can naturally percolate into the ground to irrigate the landscape.

* Make sure storm drains, gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves, sticks and other debris.

* Even better, take a walk around the block and, with a stick or a plant stake, push leaves away from the gutter drains just enough so water won't back up there. Help the neighborhood avoid flooding.

* While you're at it, make sure your downspouts aren't dumping too much water close to the house or garage. Extend the downspouts away from the house and foundation. Ideally, extensions should take rainwater at least 10 feet away from the house. (Read our earlier post on solutions to drainage problems.)

* Tip excess water out of containers. Make sure potted plants aren’t waterlogged, especially succulents, which can turn mushy and even collapse under the influence of excess water and near-freezing winter temperatures.

* Another container check: Are there so many leaves on the soil surface that raindrops can't get through to the soil and the plant's roots? (They're probably draining down the sides  or -- eek! -- not draining at all.) Some leaves are OK, but not when they create an organic tarp.

* Eliminate standing water that may have accumulated in wheelbarrows, saucers, piles of unused pots, etc.

* Not everything got watered by the rain. Check plants under patios, eaves and overhangs; they may need a drink.

* Turn off any sprinklers which might still be on. Avoid automatic irrigation for now.

* Search for and pick up large twigs or branches that have fallen or been blown out of trees, especially ones that have landed on top of tender plants. Also, look up into the trees to see if there are other loose branches within reach that you can pull down.

-- Kathy Morrison and Debbie Arrington

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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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