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Squash looking fried? Time to switch garden gears

Sweet peppers, zucchini, beans and tomatoes are summer favorites that grow rapidly in high heat.
Sweet peppers, zucchini, beans and tomatoes are summer favorites that grow rapidly in high heat. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Did summer heat fry your garden? Start thinking fall – vegetables, that is.

Recent triple-digit temperatures pushed summer squash, tomatoes and beans to grow rapidly and ripen early. That means they’re more likely to stop producing earlier, too. Some plants will bear more, but others will just shut down and wither away. As these vegetables play themselves out, switch gears and focus on fall vegetables.

On cooler days, begin transplanting seedlings for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and celery. Indoors, plant seeds for leaf lettuce, chard, kohlrabi and other fall crops, to be transplanted later. Sow seeds for head lettuce, parsnips, rutabaga, beets and turnips directly in the ground. Remember: Seeds need steady moisture to sprout.

▪  Speaking of those summer veggies, harvest tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumbers and beans before they grow too big. (That prompts the plants to produce more!)

▪ On hot afternoons, give pepper and tomato plants some shade. Place some shade cloth or burlap atop tomato cages to keep tomatoes from sunburning, while still allowing the plant’s foliage to get some light and air. The same impromptu shade structure works for pepper plants, too.

▪ As melons start to fully ripen, cut back on irrigation. Too much water in the later stages of development can cause them to split.

▪  Clean up the summer flower garden. Pull out annuals that have gone to seed or browned due to all that heat.

▪  After removing spent flowers, fertilize roses to kick-start another bloom cycle; remember to give them a deep watering before feeding.

▪  Dig and divide overcrowded irises and bulbs after the foliage dies back.

▪  Pick caterpillars off tomatoes and other vegetables before they have time to do significant damage. Watch out for stink bugs!

▪  Blast aphids off plants with a jet of water or squirt them with insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” add 1 tablespoon of liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap or Ivory dishwashing liquid) to 1 quart water. Put in a spray bottle and shake before using.

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