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A gardener's Thanksgiving


This Japanese maple tree's best gift is its late-fall beauty on a grey day. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

So much to be thankful for



The world is cloudy and soggy this Thanksgiving morning in the Sacramento Valley. We worried and worried about whether we'd get any precipitation this fall, and now that it's here -- with more expected all next week -- we gardeners can be thankful. The seedlings and new plants we put in earlier this season got a healthy drink, and the soil will soften and relax. The sprinkler system is off-duty for the time being.

It's a good day to think about such things, the gifts we receive as gardeners:

-- Pollinators who do their thing in the garden without any prompting, and do even more with a little encouragement (and plants they love). From almonds to zucchini, the area's crops and our home gardens depend on the bees, birds, butterflies and other insects.

-- The trees that shade our homes and give us mulch in the fall, as well as provide food -- even if just for wildlife (oh, those squirrels!) -- and homes for birds.

-- The magical soil below us, full of nutrients and microbes and earthworms and so many things we're not aware of as we walk over it.

-- Our gorgeous Mediterranean climate, which even as it's changing lets us work outside nearly year-round and grow so many things so well that we're the envy of the rest of the country's gardeners.

--The wonder of tiny seeds that turn into 2-pound tomatoes with just the right amount of care.

-- Finally, the generosity of fellow gardeners, who give freely of seeds, plants, produce, tools and advice. If someone says, "Oh, you're a gardener, too!" you have instant rapport. It's a community to cherish.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.




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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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