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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of July 3

Cooler than average weather offers garden opportunities

Yellow sunflowers against a blue sky
Sunflowers brighten up any landscape -- and attract bees, too. There's still time to plant some for summer color. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Steady onshore breezes get July off to a cool start. Compared to last week’s triple-digit heat, this cool-down feels wonderful.

But with wind comes fire danger; be extra cautious with anything that can cause a spark. That includes power tools, heavy equipment, barbecues and (of course) fireworks.

According to the National Weather Service, the Sacramento Valley will see high temperatures of “only” 79 to 85 degrees on Monday, July Fourth. The foothills will be 10 degrees cooler.

Normal for Independence Day in Sacramento: 92 degrees.

The forecast calls for several more days in the low to mid 80s before creeping back into the low 90s by Friday. Enjoy this mild summer weather – and get things done.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to reduce the chance of fungal infection and to conserve moisture.

* Water, then fertilize vegetables and blooming annuals, perennials and shrubs to give them a boost. Feeding flowering plants every other week will extend their bloom.

* Give tomatoes, squash, melons, peppers and eggplant some bone meal or other fertilizer high in phosphate to stimulate more blooms and fruiting.

* 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.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* It’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, 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.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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