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California State Fair returns Friday with plenty of farm-inspired fun

Visit master gardeners at the State Fair Farm, pet a live sturgeon

More than 70 different crops grow at the California State Fair Farm.

More than 70 different crops grow at the California State Fair Farm. Photo courtesy California State Fair

Of course, it’s hot! It’s time for the State Fair!

As much a Sacramento tradition as scorching summer days, the California State Fair returns Friday for its annual agricultural celebration of the Golden State.

From July 12 through 28, the fair will fill Cal Expo with such traditional favorites as nightly concerts, livestock exhibitions, horse racing and lots of food.

Also back this summer is the 3-1/2-acre California State Fair Farm, a growing display of California’s top crops.

Once again, the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Sacramento County will be stationed at a booth in the middle of The Farm to answer patrons’ questions. Make sure to drop by and say hi.

“(At The Farm), guests are able to get a Save Mart Passport and learn about more than 70 crops grown in California, learn all about pollinators and their importance in California agriculture, as well as pet a live sturgeon in the aquaculture display,” organizers note of The Farm. “Receive water saving tips during California’s drought by visiting the water-efficient gardens sponsored by the Department of Water Resources and get gardening tips from our Master Gardeners booth.”

Many of the Farm displays are kid-friendly, with plenty of wow factor. See how kiwi grows (on vines overhead) and pint-size fruit trees with harvest in easy reach. Say the organizers, “The California State Fair Farm is an essential part of mobilizing interest for young minds to pursue a career in agriculture and to further contribute to our bountiful state and sustain the industry.”

Sacramento’s triple-digit heat is supposed to subside (at least a little) during the State Fair’s run with most days topping out in the 90s. Just in case, cooling stations will be available at several sites throughout Cal Expo. Most exhibition buildings and parts of the grandstand are air conditioned.

Cal Expo is located at 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento. Fair hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Online advance admission tickets are $16. Senior admission (age 62 and up) is $12; every Friday is Senior Day with $10 admission. Youth admission (ages 5-12) is $10. Children age 4 and younger admitted free. Parking: $15.

Details and advance admission tickets: https://calexpostatefair.com/.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 14

Your garden needs you!

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

* Feed vegetable plants bone meal, rock phosphate or other fertilizers high in phosphate to stimulate more blooms and fruiting. (But wait until daily high temperatures drop out of the 100s.)

* 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.

* 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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