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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 March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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