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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of May 31


Basil is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

May ends on a cool (and maybe soggy) note


May goes out with more unexpected twists -- rain and a 25-degree dip in high temperatures.
After record heat in midweek, Sacramento is back in the 70s and expected to get wet. But this change is only temporary.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento could receive as much as a half inch of rain from this weekend storm system with the possibility of thunderstorms and maybe hail in the foothills. Remember to turn off the sprinklers.

This cool down feels like a welcome respite after 103-degree days. Sunday and Monday are both expected to be in the low 80s before we jump up 10 degrees by Tuesday. The first week of June will see several days in the 90s. That's hot for early June, which averages 87 degrees in Sacramento.

In other words, it will soon feel like summer again.

Make the most of these cooler days and enjoy your outdoor spaces:

*Warm weather brings rapid growth in the vegetable garden. Tomatoes and squash enjoy the heat. Deep-water, then feed with a balanced fertilizer. Bone meal can spur the bloom cycle and help set fruit.
* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week (about 5 gallons per plant total for the week), but don't let them dry out completely between drinks. That can encourage blossom-end rot.
* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.
* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.
* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.
* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.
* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.
* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.
* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.
* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes.
* From seed, plant beans, corn, melons, pumpkins, radishes, squash and sunflowers.
* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.
* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.
* Transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias,  gazanias, rudbeckia, salvia  and verbena.

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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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