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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of May 30

Concentrate on comfort during triple-digit days

Yellow squash, green leaves, straw mulch
Squash will grow quickly in high heat -- check the plants daily. Mulch helps keep the soil from drying out too fast, plus acts as weed control. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)


Take a break from planting and heavy-duty outdoor chores this Memorial Day weekend and instead concentrate on staying comfortable. That includes keeping your plants comfortable, too.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento will see its first triple-digit day of 2021 on Sunday, followed by a projected scorcher on Memorial Day – 106 degrees.

Fortunately, temperatures are expected to quickly cool down into the mid to low 90s. By next weekend, the forecast is back to 91 degrees, which is much closer to normal for the first week of June.

Average high for June in Sacramento is 87 degrees, but we can get much, much hotter; the record is 115.

When temperatures soar, plants slow down. Lawns barely grow, so mow less. Let the grass grow longer; the taller blades shade the roots, helping conserve moisture.

When the mercury hits 95 degrees, tomatoes may not set fruit. Citrus trees will self-thin and drop some of their baby oranges and lemons. Container plants can dry out very quickly.

On the plus side, this high heat wipes out powdery mildew. That fungal disease will stop in its tracks. Leaves already infected will drop off and be replaced by fresh foliage. Remember to clean up and discard those fallen leaves; otherwise, they may reinfect the plant once high temperatures cool back down into the 70s.

Concentrate garden chores in the early morning when the air is still cool. What needs attention this final weekend of May?

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

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

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

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

* Warm weather brings rapid growth in the vegetable garden; tomatoes and squash enjoy the heat. Deep-water, then feed with a balanced fertilizer. Bone meal can spur the bloom cycle and help set fruit.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don’t let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot

* 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.

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

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

* Transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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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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