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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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For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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