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Find answers at The Farm at State Fair

Kiwi fruit hang in clusters on their arbor at The Farm at Cal Expo. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)
Master gardeners will be out in force at Cal Expo

Got a garden question? The place to find answers this month: The California State Fair.

About 100 UC Cooperative Extension
master gardeners will take turns staffing the answer booth at The Farm during the State Fair, which opens Friday at Cal Expo. With an emphasis on food, this 166th State Fair continues daily through July 28.

Covering more than three acres, The Farm showcases more than 90 California crops and how they grow. From apples and artichokes to watermelon and zucchini, The Farm tells the story of the state’s agricultural bounty and a lot more.

Aeroponic towers can grow food on
"air" (with moisture and nutrients).
In recent years, The Farm has grown into a demonstration garden filled with water- and time-saving innovations. Among those are the 6-foot aeroponic towers, which grow strawberries, tomatoes, herbs and more on moisture forced up the towers by pressurized air. These towers can grow 30 percent more produce on 90 percent less water in 90 percent less space.

Also popular is the step-by-step demonstration garden of how to take out a lawn and replace it with more water-wise alternatives. Large flower beds show off top picks for pollinators and hummingbirds. Want to try unusual backyard crops? Check out the giant kiwi vines and climbing hops.

How do you replicate these results at home? That’s where the master gardeners come in. They also can identify mystery plants and problem pests (bring photos) as well as suggest the best vegetables and fruit to grow in Sacramento area gardens.

Starting July 12, the State Fair is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. The Farm, which closes about 6 p.m. each day, is located behind Building B next to the Cavalcade of Horses.

Cal Expo is located at 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento.

Details and ticket information: .

- Debbie Arrington


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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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