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How much should I plant?

How many of each of these seeds to plant? It depends on your family's tastes, and how much time and space you have. Also, the pepper seeds really should have been planted awhile ago; they're notoriously slow to germinate, so try to find transplants now. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Some guidelines for estimating a garden you'll eat

What to plant? That question is on the mind of every vegetable gardener right now.

Think before you buy seed – or dig. You’ll thank yourself later.

The UC Master Gardeners of Sacramento County have this advice:

“It is tempting to try growing a large variety of vegetables. A better approach might be to consider what you and your family like to eat.”

Poll your family members. Will they really eat a whole row of daikon radishes? What about okra? Or beets?

“Then consider the space that you have available,” add the master gardeners. “Plant only as large a garden as you can easily maintain, as there is a time commitment (thinning, weed and pest control, irrigation, fertilization). A smaller, properly tended garden will be more productive and satisfying than a larger garden receiving minimal attention.”

Right now, it seems like you may have all the gardening time in the world. But will that be true when life returns to relative normal?

Also consider how much your family will actually eat when those veggies are ready for harvest. Some crops – such as tomatoes – can be readily preserved. But lettuce? Those heads need to be eaten fresh, not frozen.

Garden Gate Magazine came up with a vegetable calculator with estimates per person and for a family of four. Find it here:

Some estimates seem pretty high (such as 24 lettuce plants per person), but that consumption depends on the size of the heads at harvest – and how much you like salad. Also, that lettuce harvest may be spaced year-round, not just one season.

For summer favorites, here are estimates of how much to plant this month for two people:

Beans (bush) – 30 plants

Beans (runner) – 20 plants

Corn – 24 plants

Cucumbers – Two vines or bushes

Eggplant – Three plants

Melon – Two plants

Onions – 40 sets

Peppers – Six plants (mixed varieties)

Squash – Two plants

Tomatoes – Four plants

Zucchini – Two plants


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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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