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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of July 23

After record heat, some cool relief is on its way

Butterflies love zinnias. There is still plenty of time to plant flowers for late-summer splashes of color.

Butterflies love zinnias. There is still plenty of time to plant flowers for late-summer splashes of color. Kathy Morrison

Get ready for a red-hot weekend before a return to more normal midsummer temperatures.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento and other inland cities have already broken heat records with more possible.

“There was some record heat today!” tweeted the NWS Sacramento office Friday night. “A daily record of 108 was set in downtown Sacramento, breaking the previous record of 106 set in 1996. Records of 112 were tied for Redding Airport (1988) and for Red Bluff Airport (1961).”

It could be even hotter some places this weekend before our Delta breeze returns Sunday night.

“Very hot weather will continue across interior #NorCal today with record highs possible,” added the weather service Saturday. “Temperatures will begin to trend downward beginning Sunday, and will be around average early next week.”

For the record book, Sacramento’s all-time record high – 116 degrees – was set Sept. 6 last year. That broke a record of 114 that had stood since 1925.

“If you have access to air conditioning, use it,” cautioned the weather service on Saturday. “Fans may not be adequate.”

Fortunately, this heat wave is expected to pass soon. According to the weather service, Sacramento will be back in the 90s by Monday with a forecast high of 97 – normal for late July. By Wednesday, breezy conditions will keep afternoons refreshingly cool; the forecast high for Thursday and Friday is 91 degrees – 17 degrees cooler than that record July 21.

With that in mind, postpone outdoor tasks such as mowing, weeding and planting until midweek or later if possible. Even on those cooler days, take advantage of early mornings when temperatures will be only in the 60s or 70s.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. When you do mow, set mower blades on high; taller grass shades its roots and copes better with high heat.

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

* Wait on fertilizing vegetables and blooming annuals until temperatures cool later this week. Make sure to water deeply before feeding.

* 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; all are great for containers.

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

* Indoors, start seedlings for fall vegetable planting, including bunching onion, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radicchio and lettuce.

* Sow seeds of perennials in pots for fall planting including yarrow, coneflower and salvia.

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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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