Northern California Checklist June

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PLANTING

Basil. For pesto, use a traditional-tasting basil, such as 'Italian Pesto', 'Profuma di Genova', or 'Salad Leaf'. For cooking and growing flavored or colored varieties, such as 'Mrs. Burns' Lemon', garnet 'Red Rubin', or the Thai variety 'Siam Queen'. To ensure a plentiful supply of basil through summer and fall, plant successive crops, either by sowing seeds every six to eight weeks or by planting seedlings every three to four weeks. Purchase seeds or plants at local nurseries or buy seeds online from Renee's Garden.

Dwarf crape myrtle. Sunset climate zones 7-9, 14: These heat-loving shrubs thrive in areas where days are sunny and hot. Dwarf varieties are particularly useful for small gardens; try 3- to 4-foot-tall 'Chica Pink' or 'Chica Red'. Slightly taller varieties that grow up to 5 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide include bright purple 'Centennial', rose-red 'Petite Embers', dark pink 'Petite Orchid', clear pink 'Petite Pinkie', deep purple 'Petite Plum', deep crimson 'Petite Red Imp', white 'Petite Snow', and dark rosy pink 'Pocomoke'.

Melons. It's not too late to plant most kinds of melons. Hot-summer climates (zones 8, 9, and 14) are ideal; a favorite there is 'Ambrosia' cantaloupe. Gardeners in cooler climates (zones 15-17) can choose from short-season varieties such as 'Earligold' (seeds available from Territorial Seed Company; 541/942-9547), which ripens in 65 to 75 days. Plant through black plastic sheeting and cover with fabric row covers to increase heat.

Summer annuals. For sunny spots, choose from cosmos, garden verbena, globe amaranth, Madagascar periwinkle ( Catharanthus), marigolds, portulaca, gentian sage, 'Victoria' mealycup sage, scarlet sage, sunflower, and zinnias. For shade, plant semperflorens (fibrous) begonias, browallia, coleus, and impatiens.

Unusual plants by mail. If you can't find what you're looking for at your local nursery, consider ordering plants by mail. Two good sources are Forestfarm (541/846-7269), which sells plants such as Scotch rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia), a white-flowered species with maroon-black hips; and Heronswood Nursery (360/297-4172), which stocks varieties such as 'Abendglut' bergenia, with red flowers and crinkled maroon leaves. Each company sells catalogs for $5 and lists its inventories online.

MAINTENANCE

Feed roses. To encourage growth and repeat blooming, feed plants with a complete fertilizer (one containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium); if leaves are mostly yellow and veins remain green (indicating chlorosis), also give plants iron. Water thoroughly before applying any kind of fertilizer and water again afterward if using a granular type.

Protect fruit crops. To keep birds from raiding sweet cherries and other fruits, cover trees with plastic bird netting or fabric row covers (available at most nurseries). To keep the covers from blowing off, fasten them around the trunk and to the branches with wire or twine.

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