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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of June 16

Red Flag Warning signals dry conditions, high fire danger

Have you planted sunflowers yet? They grow quickly and provide color all summer (not to mention pollen that's popular with bees).

Have you planted sunflowers yet? They grow quickly and provide color all summer (not to mention pollen that's popular with bees). Kathy Morrison

Crispy: that describes weather conditions for this coming week – as well as a lot of grasses and overgrowth.

According to the National Weather Service, a Red Flag Warning – signaling high fire danger – is in effect through Sunday night. Low humidity (as low as 10% during afternoons) and gusty winds (up to 35 mph) can rapidly spread flames. Watch out for wildfire.

Be extra careful not to produce any sparks. Avoid using power equipment; a mower blade hitting a rock can set brown grass ablaze. A trailer dragging a chain can ignite roadside weeds. Those windy conditions can rapidly turn a little flame into a raging inferno.

Instead, concentrate on keeping things irrigated – and tied down. Those winds can knock down vines and fruit, too.

Once the wind dies down, we’ll settle into a typical June pattern for these last few days of spring, says the weather service. High temperatures this week will bounce around 90 degrees with overnight lows in the high 50s. Normal for this week: Highs of 87 and lows of 56.

Summer officially starts Thursday. The good news: No triple-digits – at least until next weekend.

Make the most of this cooler weather. Your garden needs you.

* Warm weather brings rapid growth in the vegetable garden, with tomatoes and squash enjoying the heat.Water deeply, then give a balanced fertilizer. Bone meal or rock phosphate can spur the bloom cycle and help set fruit.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes. 

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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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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