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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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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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