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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of July 21

Coneflowers ( Echinacea ) can be grown from seed. Start some now for fall planting.  (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

What to plant now: Start thinking fall

Relatively mild summer weather draws gardeners outdoors, even newbies who have never grown a tomato. Ever-hopeful procrastinators want to know: What can you plant now?

Stick to crops that appreciate warm nights and hot, dry days. That includes several fall vegetables such as winter squash and pumpkins. Maybe even squeeze in some corn.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento will enjoy high temperatures just above 90 degrees for the next few days before creeping back toward triple digits.

So far, this has been a "cool" July, traditionally Sacramento's hottest time of the year. This month, we've only flirted with 100 degrees, a mark Sacramento hit four days in June.

It's not too hot to plant some seeds or add more transplants, but remember to keep them hydrated. Plants, like people, need extra water in mid-summer.

There's still time to plant some late-summer corn, but it
will need plenty of water.
* In the garden, direct seed beans, corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. In spots with afternoon shade, plant beets, carrots, leaf lettuce and turnips.

* Indoors, start seedlings for fall vegetable planting, including bunching onion, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radicchio and lettuce.

* Sow seeds of perennials in pots for fall planting including yarrow, coneflower and salvia.

* Harvest tomatoes, beans, squash, pepper and eggplants to prompt plants to keep producing. Give your vegetables a deep watering twice a week, more often if planted in containers.

* Harvest garlic and onions. Pull them before they flower.

* Divide and transplant bearded iris.

* Pinch back mums for bushier plants and more flowers.

* Pick up after your fruit trees. Clean up debris and dropped fruit; this cuts down on insects and prevents the spread of brown rot. Then feed fruit trees with slow-release fertilizer for better production for next year.

* Be on the lookout for hungry bugs!


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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the early hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* 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.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* 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 to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes. 

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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