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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of July 17

Heat is here; help your garden cope with so much sun

Bee on melon flower
Bees are important pollinators of melons, above, and squash, but they are likely to be less active in hot weather, so give your plants a hand with pollination. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Hot: That’s the official Sacramento forecast for this week. What would you expect?

As the National Weather Service’s Sacramento office tweeted Saturday: “How confident are we that this weekend will be hot? It’s a sure bet it will feel like July.”

Triple-digit highs continue at least Sunday and maybe Monday before a slight cooldown to the mid 90s – normal for mid-July in Sacramento. According to the weather service, overnight lows will dip down to around 60 each night; that will help temper those sizzling afternoons.

Few if any clouds are in the forecast, so expect lots of blasting sun. Consider erecting some temporary shade for peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and other plants prone to sunburn. They’ll appreciate it.

Watch out for your own health, too. Limit outdoor activity to early morning or early evening. Wear sun protection. Don't overdo it; heat stress is dangerous.

* Water early in the morning, preferably before 8 a.m. That will cut down on evaporation.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high. Longer grass needs less irrigation; it shades its own roots.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. (Note: Tomatoes and other broad-leafed vegetables sometimes wilt in the afternoon as a survival technique. They should pop back into form after sundown. Wilting in the morning in when you should worry about them -- and water them.)

* When temperatures cool down later this week, fertilize vegetables and blooming annuals, perennials and shrubs to give them a boost. Feeding flowering plants every other week will extend their bloom. Always water before applying fertilizer.

* Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more. Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* If your melons and squash aren't setting fruit, give the bees a hand. With a small, soft paintbrush, gather some pollen from male flowers, then brush it inside the female flowers, which have a tiny swelling at the base of their petals. (That’s the embryo melon or squash.) Within days, that little swelling should start growing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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