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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Aug. 8


Pinch off summer flowers, such as these zinnias, as they fade so the plants will continue producing blooms. (Photo: Kathy Morrison) Smoky skies can affect crops and gardeners

Plants cope with smoky skies better than people or pets. Keep that in mind when tending your garden this week.

Until air quality improves, limit your outdoor activities, says the National Weather Service. Wear a face mask – this time to filter out wildfire smoke particles. Better yet, stay indoors if possible with windows closed.

Bring in ripe tomatoes, too. Smoke can affect the taste of tomatoes, grapes and other crops that absorb aromatic compounds through their skins. Harvest sensitive, thin-skinned crops before they develop “smoke taint.”

Take precautions with other crops, too. Anything harvested now should be washed gently to remove smoke residue before eating or cooking.

Meanwhile, smoke acts like cloud cover in the valley and foothills, keeping temperatures slightly cooler. The weather service forecasts 92 degrees for Sunday in Sacramento. But another string of triple-digit days starts Tuesday and continues into next weekend.

Take it easy in this smoke and heat. Concentrate on staying comfortable – both you and your garden.

* Deep water trees, shrubs and perennials. Watch for signs of heat stress such as browned leaves.

* Keep container plants watered, but not soggy.

* Dump out any accumulated water in saucers under potted plants or other places where mosquitoes may breed. They love hot weather!

* Knock spider mites off plants with a strong blast of water. This works on aphids, too.

* Watch out for caterpillars and hornworms in the vegetable garden. They can strip a plant bare in one day. Pick them off plants by hand in early morning or late afternoon.

* Deadhead roses. If trimmed now, they’ll be in full bloom again in October.

* Pinch off dead flowers from perennials and annuals to lengthen their summer bloom.

* Pick up after your fruit trees. Clean up debris and dropped fruit; this cuts down on insects and prevents the spread of brown rot.

* Indoors, start seedlings for fall vegetable planting, including bunching onion, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radicchio and lettuce.

* Sow seeds of perennials in pots for fall planting including yarrow, coneflower and salvia.

* In the garden, direct seed beets, carrots, leaf lettuce and turnips. Plant potatoes.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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