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Want the best berries? Water now

A trellis helps train canes to grow up, off the ground. The
blackberries are easier to pick and protect.
(Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Proper irrigation is critical to harvesting sweet, ripe fruit

Berry season is so close, you can taste it.

During this hot weather, irrigation is critical. Check drip lines and soil moisture. According to the UC Cooperative Extension master gardeners, blueberries and cane berries need evenly moist but not wet soil while developing fruit.

Deep-water in the morning and let it soak down at least 6 inches. Mulch around plants to protect shallow roots and retain some of that cooling moisture.

Blueberries may actually prefer some afternoon shade. They'll ripen a month later than their full-sun counterparts, but the fruit will still be good quality.

Trellis cane berries to keep fruit off the ground and make it easier to pick. A trellis also comes in handy for protecting the crop from birds. Drape bird netting over the trellis and the canes, then lift this veil to harvest.

Maybe your berry plants are already producing; how do you know when berries are at their sweetest?
Blueberries don't ripen all at once; they require regular check-ins. Even when dark blue, they're not quite fully ripe. As a general rule, wait an extra week after they turn blue to pick.

Try this master gardener trick: Put a bucket or bowl under the berry cluster and gently "tickle" the berries, flicking the cluster with your index finger. The ripe berries will fall off.

Color helps indicate cane berry ripeness. Blackberries are deep black-purple and plump; berries in lighter shades of purple or red need more time. These berries are ripe when they easily pull free from the plant with only a slight tug.

Ranging from ruby red to deep gold to purplish black, raspberries are ripe when their caps pull free.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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