Did you already set out your tomatoes? Recent warm weather has been very tempting to speed up our gardening (and transplanting) schedule. Remember: It’s not the daytime heat that matters most; it’s the soil temperature. Tomatoes want soil warmer than 60 degrees before they really start growing. (That’s a temperature our soil usually doesn’t reach until May.) Peppers and eggplant want it even warmer.
Think your ground is warm enough? Try this “sit down test”: Sit in thin shorts (or less) on the bare ground. If you can stay seated comfortably for 60 seconds, then go ahead and plant. Otherwise, your tomatoes will just sit there – and wait until their roots feel warmer before they show real growth.
▪ April is among the busiest months for Sacramento gardeners, especially if they want to plant a vegetable garden. But pests are also very active, so look out for invasions.
▪ In the vegetable garden, it’s time to plant seeds for beets, carrots, celery, chard, endive, fennel, jicama, mustard, radish, spinach and turnips.
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▪ Watch out for slugs and snails. Spring brings them out in force. An hour after nightfall, check your tender plants with a flashlight and hand-pick snails and slugs off foliage.
▪ To deter snails, sprinkle wood ash or crushed eggshells around plants. Or try this trick: Put boards (such as two two-by-fours or one-by-sixes) flat in the garden and leave them overnight. In the morning, you’ll find the critters hiding under the boards. Scrape the pests into the trash and dispose of them.
▪ Catch stink bugs early. Their eggs, in neat rows, soon will start appearing on the underside of leaves. The young stink bugs look like long-legged aphids. They can be controlled by such organic products as Nature’s Pest Fighter, Safer Brand Insecticidal Soap or Bug Buster-O. Or, with gloves, pick them off and drop them in an old coffee can containing an inch of soapy water. Then, cover the can and dispose of it.
▪ With warmer weather comes mosquito season. Empty water out of saucers under pots. Also, eliminate any other standing water that may have accumulated during spring showers.