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Wrap up September by sorting summer garden supplies

Make next year easier with some organization now

Box of seed packages and some on counter with clips
Yes, a shoe box is my storage container for my tomato seeds. But I winnow my
collection every year, so I know these are all usable. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

October starts tomorrow -- is your summer garden stuff put away yet? Right now is the perfect time to do it, before we're too deep into fall planting. I know, I know -- the weather's perfect and the garden is calling, but hear me out.

I'm speaking from experience. Since the busy winter holidays interrupt my gardening year, I tend to forget where I've put things, what I ran out of, what I might need earliest -- and sometimes even which varieties of seeds I prefer. So here are some recommendations for getting a jump on 2022's spring and summer, which will be here before we know it:


Gather all those half-full packages of seeds, and organize them by vegetables, flowers and herbs. First, toss any that are getting too old to use again, especially peppers, which tend to degrade significantly after two years. Tomato seeds can last up to five years, in my experience. Most flowers and other vegetables fall in between; three years is usually about it.

Make a decision on any variety that was a disappointment: Do you want to try it again, perhaps in another spot? If not, toss it or put it in a pile to donate to a community garden or school. If you do save it, mark the package somehow, perhaps with a B to note that this variety is on the bubble.

Packages of favorites also should be checked: How close are they to empty? My Jetsetter tomato seed supply is still good, but I might need more Juliet seeds, since that tomato is on my must-plant list every year.

Do you plant a variety that's an exclusive? Check that supply, especially. My favorite First Prize hybrid tomatoes are available only from Tomato Growers  Supply Co. , for example, so I'll have to put in an order with them.

Many of the seed companies have restocked since the big spring rush, so you should be able buy new seeds now. But be sure to file the new ones away in the proper place or you might find yourself buying even more in January. (Ask me how I know this.) Here's an idea: Make a note on your 2022 Garden Guide and Calendar which ones you've restocked.

(By the way, you can buy the 2022 Garden Guide this weekend in person at the Shepard Center Fall Sale . $10. Just sayin'.)

Finally, store your spring and summer seeds in a cool, dry place so they will still be viable when you pull them out again.

Seed starting equipment and used pots

The best approach is to clean all these items now with a bleach solution (1 part regular bleach to 9 parts water). Soak for 10 minutes, then rinse with clear water and air dry. That will get rid of any lingering pathogens, and the pots, packs and trays will all ready for next year.

However, a quick and (literally) dirty way to stash everything is to stack it up by size and store it away. A large trash barrel with a lid is useful for outdoor storage; a big cardboard box works for garage storage or some other place where it won't get wet. While sorting, toss any trays, containers or other items which have split or gotten crunched over the summer. Any containers saved still will have to be cleaned to be re-used, but this will at least get them out of the way for now.

Those empty Smart Pots and other fabric grow bags can be left out to dry completely, then stored flat. They can be washed in the washing machine first, on the delicate cycle, or hand washed, but don't put them in the dryer to dry.

Also make a note on which seed-starting medium you used, whether you liked it (and where you purchased it) or want to try something new. File the note with your seed collection, or stock up on that now while fewer people are shopping for it.

Fertilizers and sprays

Here again, assess what you have, what needs to be replaced and what needs to be tossed. Even if you're still using these products during fall planting, it doesn't hurt to check what you have. And it's also a good time to see whether you have the right supplies for dormant season spraying, such as for peach leaf curl. That first spray period (around Thanksgiving) always sneaks up on me.

Boxes and bags of fertilizer supplies should be stored away from animals at all times. Bone meal in particular seems to entice both wild and domestic animal explorers, but other organic products might, too. Pack the products into a large tub or tote, preferably one with a lid, and put it away where they can't reach it.

Note: Debbie will have a longer post Friday on handling gardening chemicals.

Tools and other stuff

Our tools get used all year, but autumn's a good time to check them for rust, burrs on blades and general wear. Here's a great video from the Sacramento County master gardeners on sharpening hand pruners.

What needs replacing? Make notes for a potential shopping trip. And anything that has a seasonal use -- such as fruit pickers, tomato cages or shade cloth -- should be put away. We go so many months without rain that it's easy to, er, store everything outside. Remember that even autumn morning dew can rust tools, so clean up and stash them appropriately.

OK, good work! Now to get back to fall planting. Last year Debbie wrote an excellent post on fall planting in Sacramento; we're lucky to have lower temperatures and clearer skies this year at the same time.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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