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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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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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