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Garden Checklist: Harvest summer veggies; plant for fall

Beets can be planted now for fall.
Beets can be planted now for fall. TNS

There’s a good reason Sacramento master gardeners celebrate Harvest Day on the first Saturday of August: That’s when ripe tomatoes really start rolling in.

Also ready to pick are beans, squash, peppers and eggplants. Harvest daily to prompt plants to keep producing.

▪ Tomatoes not setting fruit? Blame the heat. Many varieties (particularly heirlooms) won’t set fruit when daytime temperatures are above 90 degrees. Tomato pollen can lose its viability in triple-digit heat, too, or become so dry it won’t stick to the stigma, the female part of the flower. The solution? Keep the vines watered and fertilized while waiting for cooler days. By late September, you should have some ripe tomatoes.

▪ Speaking of heat, help your garden cope while conserving water, too. Give most plants a deep watering once a week, more if they look droopy or grow in containers. Also, give them a boost with phosphate-rich fertilizer to help fruiting. (Always water before feeding.)

▪ Get started on your fall vegetable garden. Plant seeds for beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, head lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas and turnips. The warmth will get them off to a fast start, but keep soil moist.

▪  Watch out for caterpillars and hornworms in the vegetable garden; they can strip a plant bare in one day. Hand-pick them off plants in early morning or late afternoon.

▪  When fighting caterpillars, make a game of bug hunting. Let youngsters collect them in a jar. Identify the beneficial butterflies-to-be (and relocate them to somewhere else in the garden where they won’t munch on vegetables), then dispose of the others. To identify the good bugs from the just plain pests, visit www.bugguide.net and www.butterflywebsite.com.