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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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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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