Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

Take a moment for a midseason assessment

Bee on basil
A bee gets busy on flowers of an African blue basil plant. I successfully propagated the plant from one I had last year, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Some issues can be fixed; others filed away as experience

How are you feeling about your garden so far this year? A friend at my community garden this morning noted, "We're just about halfway through now, aren't we?"

It got me to thinking about how fast the spring and summer have gone, at least in terms of vegetable growing. I picked a full basket of tomatoes this morning, plus some zucchini. Just four months ago I was nursing the seedlings for those very tomatoes. Four months from Sunday it'll be Thanksgiving -- eek! -- and those plants will be history.

So the middle of harvest time offers a good opportunity to assess this year's experiences, and see what can be fixed now. Other things can be filed away as lessons. Write down your own observations, and you'll have something to refer to during the winter, when this process starts all over.

A social media thread I was looking at the other day asked for either one gardening lesson from this year or one piece of advice. So I'll start my midyear assessment with the piece of advice I offered:

1) Extra time spent prepping the soil always pays off in the end. I fussed over getting my vegetables planted this spring, but I knew that the west end of my plot needed help: Nothing grew very well there the past two years. I finally did a soil test, and that area showed a definite nitrogen deficiency. OK, that's fixable. A lot of blood meal went in, and the tomatoes subsequently planted in that spot are doing fine, even though they went in relatively late. This same spot will get another round of nutrient attention this winter.

2) There always are surprises. I had just one Wine Jug tomato seedling survive the starting season. I was looking forward to seeing and tasting this Wild Boar Farms creation. But the fruit that plant has produced is small and red, not purple and jug-shaped. Seed mixup somewhere along the way, for sure. OK, try again next year.

3) Put in more stakes for tomatoes than you think you'll need. I have 6-foot fence posts to install next to my tomato cages. I never put enough of them in the ground early, and trying to put them in later is ridiculous. Remember this next year!

Tall sunflower
This Lemon Queen sunflower is easily 9 feet tall,
the last to bloom in the garden.

4) Sunflowers are great shade, and even better if the plantings are staggered. The bees love the blooms, and the plants shade my tomatoes perfectly. I haven't had to use nearly as much shade cloth this year.

5) Fight insect pests early and often. Entice more beneficials and pollinators. Thrips were a problem with my seedlings early on, but s pider mites are my real nemesis in summer. I'm waging a determined battle with them this year, armed with my garden hose and trigger sprayer -- and mostly winning. Wet down everything frequently, even the pathways, since mites prefer hot and dusty conditions. I've also put in a lot more plants that attract beneficial insects: chamomile, fennel, various basils (that I let flower) and cosmos. And the African blue basil that I propagated over the winter not only took, it is thriving! The bees love it. Definitely doing that again next year.

6) Peppers do quite well in pots. I have too many pepper plants -- bells and jalapeños and shishitos -- and every one of them is growing in a container, in part shade, in my backyard. They get enough water and fertilizer and they're all really happy. That makes me happy.

7) Blueberries win over strawberries. The strawberries have been coddled, and watered, and mulched, and fertilized, and watered, over and over. They're still not happy. The blueberries, however, responded beautifully to enough water and just enough sun.

8) Time spent in the garden, even just listening to the bees, is never wasted. Because we can't go anywhere this summer, the garden has been my only escape, and thank goodness for it. Yes, my garden "yells" at me -- fix that, fertilize this, deadhead those -- but I can shut that off for a bit and just enjoy the peace. I wish that experience for all gardeners.


0 comments have been posted.

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Local News

Ad for California Local

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.

Contact Us

Send us a gardening question, a post suggestion or information about an upcoming event.