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Right here: A rare place to see well-tested vegetable varieties

Bundled up against the cold, master gardener Gail Pothour talks about the Horticulture Center being named an AAS Display Garden. (Photos:Kathy Morrison)
Horticulture Center includes AAS display garden this year

This means every variety of summer vegetable, herb and flower chosen for the nine raised beds, the planting barrels and even the straw-bale garden will be from the AAS seed library. The seeds are from the 2014-19 years, said Gail Pothour, one of the vegetable garden specialists among the Sacramento County master gardeners.

So what's the big deal? Any plant variety named an AAS winner has been tested all over the United States and Canada, in different climates, and been found to be an exceptional producer.

Display gardens can be flowers only, edibles only, or both. Of the nearly 200 display gardens AAS lists in the U.S. and Canada, just seven are in California. The next closest is in Walnut Creek.

Solid cabbage heads, a first for the Horticulture Center.
Right now, two of the Horticulture Center's raised beds are planted in AAS winter varieties. "We have our first solid cabbage heads, ever," Pothour said, poking a plant of the Katarina variety, the head already the size of a softball.

This means home gardeners don't have to guess how a certain seed or plant is going to work in Sacramento County: Everything grown in the vegetable garden will have the AAS stamp of approval.

Of course, not everything is guaranteed to survive garden pests. Pothour said birds ate all the broccoli sprouts before the master gardeners could get them protected with row covers. But there are plenty of plants to see now, and many more are being started this month for transplanting in spring. The next Open Garden is set for March 9.

Another popular offering at Saturday's event was the hot compost demonstration. Several types of compost bins were on display, with the master gardeners' favorites labeled: The geo-bin is the easier of the two to set up, but the wooden stacking style also works well. The master gardeners also opened a worm composting box for display
Young visitors at the Open Garden meet some worms from the compost box.
and kids were able to get up close and personal with the red wigglers before the cold wind and rain sent all gardeners scurrying for home.

A separate worm composting workshop will be offered Feb. 23 at the UC Cooperative Extension headquarters, and a Backyard Composting 101 workshop is scheduled March 5 at the ACC Senior Services. For details, visit .


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* 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.

* 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 wee 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.

* 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.

* 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.

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