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Garden Checklist: Spring has flowers – and powdery mildew

Be sure to feed camellias during their growing season.
Be sure to feed camellias during their growing season. Sacramento Bee file

Spring is truly in the air – and almost official. The new season starts Sunday. While we may be dreaming of summer tomatoes, pay attention to these garden tasks first:

▪  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 fertilizing.

▪  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. Watering plants in the morning 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.

▪  In the vegetable garden, plant seed for beets, carrots, celeriac, celery, collards, endive, fennel, jicama, kale, leaf lettuce, mustard, peas, potatoes, radish, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.

▪  In a greenhouse or indoors, start seed for summer and winter squash, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.

▪  For spring and summer flowers, plant seed for aster, cornflower, cosmos, larkspur, nasturium, nicotiana, periwinkle, portulaca, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragon, verbena and zinnia.