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New month brings new season (and more heat)

September a busy time in Sacramento gardens

Green tomatoes will continue to ripen, but don't expect your plants to set any
new tomatoes during the expected heat wave this weekend. (Photo: Kathy

After a summer filled with extremes, it’s hard to remember: What’s “normal”?

For the waning days of summer, cooler temperatures usually prevail. September’s average high in Sacramento is 87 degrees; it’s 90 degrees for this first week.

So, these first days of September are actually almost normal, temperature-wise.

But nothing has been “average” about 2020 – and that includes this Labor Day weekend. The National Weather Service is forecasting another extreme heat warning with possible record highs over the coming three-day holiday. The all-time hottest September day on record in Sacramento: 108.

Hopefully, this is just another spike and not some “new normal.”

Transitioning from summer into fall, September is one of the busiest months in the Sacramento garden. It starts another season in the vegetable garden.

Summer veggie plants that are healthy and producing can stay in place. But don’t expect tomatoes to set any more fruit during this coming heat. If your tomato plants have no green fruit, it may be a good time to pull those vines.

Compost the old and prepare for the new. Cultivate the soil and replenish its nutrients, adding aged manure or finished compost. Cool-season leafy green crops need their nitrogen.

After this Labor Day heat wave, start transplanting cool-season favorites such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and head lettuce.

Onion sets can be planted now as well as potatoes. From seed, plant leaf lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy and spinach directly into the vegetable beds.

The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

Before this summer becomes a distant memory, take a few minutes now to evaluate your harvest. Which tomato and pepper varieties did well? Which ones were flops? What would you do differently if you could plant again?

Make notes to yourself – including one to follow through on your own advice next year.

We’d like to hear about your garden successes (and not-so-great results, too). Send photos and observations; we’ll compile them into a garden report card for the Sacramento summer of 2020.

Email them directly to .


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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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