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Gardeners turn out for Sacramento’s annual Harvest Day

The grape tasting table is a popular stop during Harvest Day. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)
Despite humidity and falling ash, Fair Oaks Horticulture Center packs ‘em in for annual celebration

Rudbeckia brightens the Water Efficient Landscape.
Inspiration was everywhere you looked Saturday at Sacramento’s annual Harvest Day celebration.

The Fair Oaks Horticulture Center’s vegetable garden was brimming with tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. The Water Efficient Landscape glowed with blooms and buzzed with bees. Back in the compost area, kids watched wigglers as their parents heard the details of worm composting.

This whimsical plant ID
hangs in the vegetable garden.
Presented by the UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County, Harvest Day is the biggest event of the year for Sacramento gardeners. The 2018 event lived up to its reputation as educational as well as fun. The sky was a little ashy from wildfires and the air a bit thick in the morning, but that didn’t seem to lessen the enthusiasm of the more than 2,000 people who attended.

"Farmer Fred" Hoffman, left, and Phil Purcell talk trees.
As expected, “Farmer Fred” Hoffman drew a big crowd for his opening talk, “Garden Time Savers: Automate, Elevate, Eliminate and Delegate.” He shared his presentation with Don Franklin of Hunter Industries, who talked of the wonders of modern irrigation systems (that fell under “Automate”) and Phil Purcell of Dave Wilson Nursery, who stressed the importance of pruning fruit trees to manageable heights. (That was under “De-Elevate,” Hoffman said. “Buy fruit bushes, not fruit trees!” he advised.)

Hoffman also went right to the point about those problem plants every gardener struggles with: Don’t waste your time. “Get rid of it!” he said, and replace it with something more appropriate for the space or the climate.

Master Gardener Carole Ludlum talks trouble-shooting grapevine
problems. Below, grape clusters in birdproof organza bags.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about the Horticulture Center is that it’s a working space set up by experts who can be just as flummoxed by nature as the average person. The difference: The Master Gardeners try to find out what happened and why.

Every corner of the Horticulture Center was buzzing for hours, as gardeners asked questions, listened and learned.

If you
The Master Gardeners' help table was busy all day long.
missed this year’s event, you should try to catch the next Open Garden at the center, 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 8. Those events are like mini Harvest Days, with  demonstrations and plenty of Master Gardeners to ask questions of. Or you can mark your calendar for next year: Harvest Day 2019 will be on Aug. 3.
Choosing blossoms and herbs to make a solar-dyed silk scarf was a fundraising activity at Harvest Day.
Plant vendors such as Morningsun Herb Farm drew many shoppers.
The event also offered food trucks and educational tables.


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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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