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In all its ag glory, California State Fair opens Friday

Emphasis will be on food with return of festival; visit master gardeners at The Farm

The Farm features dozens of crops grown in California as well as the Insect Pavilion and the UCCE Sacramento County master gardeners' booth.

The Farm features dozens of crops grown in California as well as the Insect Pavilion and the UCCE Sacramento County master gardeners' booth. Photo courtesy California State Fair

What’s happening down on The Farm? Find out when the California State Fair and Food Festival returns Friday for its annual agricultural celebration of the Golden State.

From July 14 through 30, the fair will fill Cal Expo with such traditional favorites as nightly concerts and livestock exhibitions. With an emphasis on food, dozens of creative food vendors will participate in the fest, which includes a competition for Best Fair Food. (The 2022 Best of Fair winner: Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls’ Caramel Crunch Cinnamon Roll.) In addition, cooking challenges and demonstrations will be held daily.

Also back this summer is the 3-1/2-acre California State Fair Farm, a growing display of California’s top crops. More than 70 California-grown crops are featured along with water-wise tips and gardening advice.

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.

Our expected heat this weekend has already taken a toll on the State Fair’s schedule. The State Fair’s thoroughbred horse racing meet, a fair staple for generations, was supposed to open Friday afternoon. But with an excessive heat watch in effect through Monday night, racing for Friday, Saturday and Sunday has been canceled. Instead, racing will start on July 21.

Friday’s high temperature is expected to be 106 degrees, says the National Weather Service. Saturday’s forecast high is 110 degrees; Sunday, 108.

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. 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 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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