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Happy first day of summer! Here's a bucket list for the next 3 months

Ideas for gardeners to revel in the long days and cool nights

Agapanthus, aka lily of the Nile, is a popular summer flowering plant around Sacramento. Most varieties have periwinkle or blue flowers, but some bloom white.

Agapanthus, aka lily of the Nile, is a popular summer flowering plant around Sacramento. Most varieties have periwinkle or blue flowers, but some bloom white. Kathy Morrison

Ah, summer is here! The solstice arrived in California at 1:51 p.m. today.

Sacramento gets to enjoy 14 hours and 51 minutes of daylight today; that amount will slowly drop as the summer progresses. By the time the fall equinox arrives Sept. 22, we'll be down to about 12 hours of daylight.

Here's a completely arbitrary bucket list for gardeners to glean some special moments from the next three months.

1. Go out to your garden after sunrise -- but no later than 9 a.m. -- and just stand there, watching. Avoid the temptation to deadhead or water or pick or weed right now. Give yourself a full 5 minutes (or more) of just observing. Listen to the bees already at work and the mockingbird singing overhead. A hummingbird may happen by, or maybe a dragonfly. This is nature and you're part of it -- how wonderful! Do this at least once a week until fall.

2. Pick something you're growing and eat it right there in the garden. (No fruit or vegetables? Well, nasturtiums, marigolds, and mint and basil flowers are among common edibles.)

3. Plant sunflowers if you haven't already. If you have some, plant more, if only for the birds and squirrels.

4. Choose seeds for a cool-weather garden early, while there is still a good selection. This seed-starting period always creeps up on gardeners -- for most crops, it begins in August. Decide to grow something you've never tried before. For me last year it was bok choy.

5. Designate one spot for a "moon garden." Choose white-flowering plants, ones with silvery foliage and/or some with fragrant night flowers. Make sure the one plant or several will be lit by the moon, not blocked by fences or side of the residence. Shasta daisies, candytuft, sweet alyssum, calla lilies and impatiens are among white flowers easily found. Common yarrow and chaparral yucca are California natives with white blooms. Silver foliage plants include lamb's ears, dusty miller and Russian sage, while fragrant plants that would work include nicotiana, evening primrose and star jasmine.

6. Visit a public garden or neighborhood park you've never been to. Make notes on the plants. Which ones work together? Any summer-dormant natives? Are there a lot of birds? Which plants are the bees drawn to?

7. When a heat spike is expected, bring a bit of the outdoors inside: Early in the morning, cut a selection of flowers (especially roses), small branches, vines and the like that will probably get blown out or crisped later in the day. Put them in a vase or other arrangement to see while indoors. You grew it, now enjoy it!


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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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