Renée C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

This former lawn area has been converted into an attractive, useful and water-wise part of the yard.

Home and garden checklists

Published: Saturday, Jul. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 11CALIFORNIA LIFE

Grow "green" and represent the Golden State

Apply Responsibly, a pesticide public awareness program, invites California gardeners to share photos of their water-wise landscapes. Each month, one garden will be featured and added to an online gallery.

In addition, the water-wise garden of the month will be offered as a downloadable desktop calendar. A different garden will be featured each month.

"This year's campaign offers a fun new way to remind Californians about the link between gardening and protecting the state's water," said Ann Orth, a spokeswoman for Apply Responsibly. "This is a timely message because not only is it the International Year of Water, but California is again facing serious drought conditions."

The winning photo calendar will be offered free to anyone via the group's website, www.applyresponsibly.org.

Complete rules also are available at that site. Photos should focus on the garden, plants, flowers and other features, but leave out people or pets.

The site also offers several pesticide-related tips to remember this summer:

• Consider ready-to-use pesticides rather than products that need to be mixed if only a small area needs to be treated.

• Consider alternatives to pesticides. Often, garden pests can be controlled by hand-picking or spraying with mild soap and water.

• Avoid stockpiling pesticides. Buy only enough for one season.

• Use, store and dispose of unused pesticides according to the instructions on the product label.

• Never pour leftover pesticides down the sink, toilet, sewer or storm drain. Those chemicals can find their way into waterways and groundwater.

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

• Don't let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely; that can encourage blossom-end rot. Give tomatoes a deep watering three times a week (at least) and a little more if they look droopy. If your tomato plants are on a drip-irrigation system, figure a gallon per plant per day.

• Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more. Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather; keep an eye on the zucchini.

• If your melons and squash aren't setting fruit, give the bees a hand. With a small, soft paintbrush, gather some pollen from male flowers, then brush it inside the female flowers, which have a tiny swelling at the base of their petals (that's the embryo melon or squash). Within days, that little swelling should start growing.

• It's not too late to get a few more veggies in the ground. Plant seeds for corn, lima beans, okra, parsnips, pumpkin, summer and winter squash, and watermelon. In the Sacramento area, the biggest Halloween pumpkins are traditionally planted the week of July Fourth. (That means now!)

• Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

– Debbie Arrington

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