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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Aug. 25

In hot weather, harvest crops daily. Tomatoes and other vegetables can
ripen rapidly. The plants also may need some shade to prevent sunburn.
(Photo: Kathy Morrison)
Are your plants ready for more triple-digit weather?

Hot! That's the forecast from the National Weather Service as Sacramento faces at least five consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures.

The upper range for the Central Valley is predicted between 98 and 107 degrees for Tuesday, the peak of this heat wave. Keeping us warm, overnight lows are hovering around 70.

Stay hydrated. That goes for you and your garden. Irrigate early in the morning or evening. Try to limit your garden activities to the cooler parts of the day.

Put off major chores and planting until the weather cools back down into the low and mid 90s, the current forecast for next weekend. (Remember: It's not lazy, it's smart.)

What to do while you can:
* Test soil moisture. Use a moisture meter or just a long-handled screwdriver. If it can't penetrate 6 inches, that hard soil is too dry. Deep water where needed.

* Harvest daily. Crops can ripen rapidly in hot weather and quickly go over the top.

* Got watermelons? As they near ripeness, cut back on water for the last two weeks or they may split. Look at the little curly tendril growing opposite the melon on the vine. If it's green and springy, the melon is still growing, so keep watering. If it's yellow, cut back on irrigation. If the tendril is brown, the melon is at full size and ripe.

* Shade ripening tomatoes, eggplant and peppers; they can easily sunburn in this weather.

* Skip the fertilizer this week; it may cause more plant stress than good.

* Check on new transplants; are they getting enough water? Do they need temporary shade?

* Let the lawn grow (if it's growing at all). Longer grass conserves moisture.

* Pick up fallen fruit; it attracts all sorts of pests.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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