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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of April 28


Are your tomato seedlings producing flowers before they're even planted? Pinch off these early flowers so the plant will
put its energy into growing strong new roots.

Sunday will be perfect for planting tomatoes and more



Suddenly, it feels likes summer – or at least early June.

Spiking into the high 80s and low 90s, Sacramento temperatures have been running 10 to 12 degrees above normal for late April. Reacting to this spring heat wave, everything seems to be growing (or fading) faster.

Such cool-season crops as lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and kale, which all were enjoying cooler days in March and early April, are quickly bolting to seed. Meanwhile, tomato vines love these higher temperatures, adding inches every day.

According to the National Weather Service, the days ahead will be sunny but not quite so warm, staying just below 80 – which is where we want to be right now.

Take advantage of this “normal” weather and plant summer favorites. It’s perfect timing -- April 28 is Sacramento’s unofficial Tomato Planting Day!

* Set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Run the sprinklers early in the day -- before 8 a.m. if possible -- to minimize plant diseases.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

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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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