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Here comes citrus season: Mandarins and more

At a festival or in a backyard, citrus is a great crop

One ripe mandarin on a tree
Satsuma mandarins herald the local citrus harvest. Learn about growing citrus from the El Dorado County master gardeners on Nov. 20. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

The Mountain Mandarin Festival is coming, Nov. 19-21, which means the orange fruit of the moment is no longer pumpkins.

The Satsuma mandarins ripening now will be followed shortly by clementines, navel oranges, blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges, tangelos, and all the many other citrus fruits that will brighten the days until spring.

If you've ever wanted to grow your own citrus -- or already do but are perplexed by your plant's habits -- the El Dorado County master gardeners are here to help. They will offer a free online class, "Growing Citrus," 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday Nov. 20.

The class is appropriate for novice and experienced citrus gardeners. Master gardener Phyllis Lee will address citrus pests, handling cold weather, harvesting and other tips for success, applicable to other areas as well as El Dorado County.

Reserve a spot by signing up here .

The Mountain Mandarin Festival, which celebrates the crop and the growers of Placer County, will return to much of its usual level of activity this year, after dialing down last year in the face of coronavirus concerns. Hours are this year 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday Nov. 20, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21.

Mandarin-based food of all kinds will be sold, in addition to bags and bags of fresh mandarins. (Some growers do sell online, by the way, if you are reluctant to buy in person.)

The festival also includes live music all three days, a Miss Mandarin pageant and, on Sunday, a Run for the Mandarins. Contests will not include cooking, but will include mandarin packing (Friday), mandarin juicing (Saturday) and mandarin peel-and-eat (Sunday).

The festival will be at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, 209 Fairgate Road in Auburn. Tickets are $10 general admission, $6 for seniors, and free for children under 12. Friday's admission is a special price of $5. A limited number of all-weekend passes are available for $19. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online here ; an online fee is additional.

To keep everyone safe healthy, Placer County recommends that all festival attendees wear a mask.

The festival website, with many more details, is mandarinfestival.com .

-- Kathy Morrison


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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