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Garden Checklist: It may be July, but think Halloween

Dreaming of growing a giant pumpkin? This is a good weekend to plant the seeds.
Dreaming of growing a giant pumpkin? This is a good weekend to plant the seeds. Tribune News

It may be Fourth of July weekend, but garden-wise, it’s time to seriously get to work on another holiday – Halloween.

In the Sacramento area, the biggest Halloween pumpkins are traditionally planted the week of July 4. (That means now!) Among the recommended varieties are Dill’s Atlantic Giant and Burpee’s Prizewinner Hybrid; both can produce 300-pound pumpkins.

Choose the sunniest place in your garden with room for pumpkin vines to sprawl. Pumpkins love hot weather and enriched soil with good drainage. Dig compost or rotted manure into your pumpkin patch before you plant.

Pumpkins and their vines do their growing at night. Water in the evening and only at the base of the plant; that helps cut down on fungal disease. Remember: Big pumpkins need a lot of water. By August, vines require 10 to 15 gallons twice a week.

▪ 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 dry out completely; that can encourage blossom-end rot. 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 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 baby fruit). 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.

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