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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

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

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

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

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

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

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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