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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 Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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