Garden checklist: Spring has almost sprung; it’s time to get busy

03/15/2014 12:00 AM

03/13/2014 5:42 PM

It’s almost spring, which means it’s a very busy time in local gardens. The new season officially starts Thursday, but why wait to tackle these early spring tasks?

• Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after they bloom.

• Feed camellias and citrus. This is their growing season and they can use a boost. Make sure to deep water shrubs and trees before adding fertilizer.

• Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth. Again, water plants first.

• Watch for signs of powdery mildew on roses, grapes and ornamentals, particularly on new leaves. A small outbreak can explode into a big problem. The spores can go through their entire life cycle in 72 hours.

Powdery mildew hates water, but loves new growth and warm weather – 68 to 77 degrees is ideal. That’s typical late-March weather in Sacramento.

Watering plants in the morning, including a spray on new leaves, can thwart spores, but may not be enough if an outbreak has already occurred.

Sulfur and potassium bicarbonate sprays are both effective in protecting young shoots. Garlic is naturally high in sulfur. To make your own spray, process a few cloves of garlic with 1 quart water in a blender or food processor, then spray leaves and shoots.

Or try this formula: Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap or Ivory Liquid) and 1 quart water in a spray container. Shake well. Make sure to spray the underside of leaves as well as the tops.

– Debbie Arrington

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