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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of June 26

Tomato weather is here as June ends with a sizzle

green immature tomatoes
Tomatoes are developing rapidly in this hot weather. Temperatures should drop
a bit as the week continues. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)



This must be tomato weather; with hot days and warm nights, vines are growing rapidly and sprouting new clusters of flowers. Many are setting rapidly developing fruit.

Fingers crossed, those new buds will bear fruit, too; chances are they will if the current forecast is correct.

Tomato flowers
If it's too hot, the pollen in those flowers dries out too
fast to set new tomatoes.

Our run of triple-digit days should wrap up Monday, predicts the National Weather Service. By midweek, afternoons will top out in the low 90s. The forecast high for Friday – the first day of July – is just 87; that’s actually below July’s average of 92.

More good news: Tomatoes need a little wind to spread their pollen, and light breezes are forecast every day.

Most Sacramento-area tomato growers can expect to see a little gap in production from our recent heat wave. Tomatoes have difficulty setting fruit in high heat; their pollen dries out too fast. These new flowers have a better chance.

Don’t see any flowers? Give your tomatoes a boost with bone meal or other high-phosphate fertilizer to induce flowering. Wait until temperatures cool down later this week. Always water before feeding.

Bees also cut back their activity when it’s too hot outside. If your melons and squash aren’t setting fruit, give the bees a hand.

With a small, soft paintbrush, gather 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.

If your plants had teeny tiny zucchini or other squash that never developed past baby stage, that’s because of lack of pollination, too.

* During these hot days, keep your vegetable garden evenly watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to reduce the chance of fungal infection and to conserve moisture. When in doubt, check soil 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. Time this feeding after our current heat wave ends.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Afternoon wilt for some varieties is normal; morning wilt is not.

Baby zucchini on vine with flowers
It doesn't take long for small squash to grow
into big squash. Keep an eye on the plants.

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

* Harvest onions and garlic before they flower.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* 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.

* 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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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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