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It's not too late to plant a garden

Pumpkin patch
Plant seeds now and grow your own pumpkin patch. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Midsummer possibilities: Corn, pumpkins, winter squash

Happy July! Usually this month ushers in a whirlwind of summer activities including the State Fair. Due to COVID concerns, it looks like we'll be staying close to home, just as we have for the past three months.

Is it too late to plant a vegetable garden?

It's never too late -- or too early -- to plant a garden in Sacramento. It just depends on what you plan to plant.

July represents a month of possibilities, especially when the weather has cooled just a bit. While tomatoes and peppers are producing their first harvests, several other warm weather crops are just now going into the ground.

What to plant now?

Corn: Planted now, it will produce ears around Labor Day. Corn needs other stalks nearby for pollination. For best results, plant in blocks (such as 12 by 12 plants) instead of single or double rows. Corn needs a lot of water, so make sure sprouts stay well watered.

This is prime pumpkin planting weather. Seeded now, they'll be ready for Halloween -- or a little earlier. They like a mound layered with aged compost or manure and room to roam; their vines can cover easily cover a 10-foot-square space. To thrive, those fast-growing vines need deep watering twice a week.

Winter squash:
Butternut, acorn and other favorites can go in the ground now for fall harvest. Treat them like pumpkins, their close cousins.

Sunflowers with bee
Sunflowers work as both summer and early fall
flowers. Bees like them anytime.
They're fast and fun. Planted now, they'll produce big fall bouquets. And the bees will thank you.

Radishes: The fastest-growing vegetable in the garden is fun for kids. They'll be ready to pick in August.

Want more flowers? It's not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

Just remember to keep everything consistently watered and mulched. Then, plan on enjoying a fall harvest from your summer shut-in garden.


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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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