For color in your garden right now, there’s plenty of flowers to choose from — zinnias, marigolds, vincas, begonias, lobelias, alyssum, petunias. For drought-tolerant color that will last into the fall, plant gaillardia, gaura, penstemon, salvia and yarrow.
Also, this is a perfect time to plant beans, corn, squash and eggplant, all of which love the summer heat. Planting these too early makes for weak plants, because of our unpredictable cool spring weather.
If you love basil, plant seedlings every three or four weeks for a steady supply all summer.
Fertilizing and maintenance
Feed summer flowers and vegetables throughout the growing season. Use a controlled-release fertilizer or give frequent light feedings to all heavy flower producers.
Feed houseplants once a month, and to prevent sunburn, move houseplants away from hot south- or west-facing windows or shield them with translucent curtains.
Shear, feed and water spent annuals to promote another round of bloom.
Mulch around tomato plants to conserve moisture. The hottest days are coming, and tomatoes produce best around 85 degrees, so help them retain moisture when it’s hot.
Water early in the morning to minimize evaporation loss to plants. Water trees and shrubs deeply and less frequently — as opposed to shallowly and often — to encourage strong root development. It is fun to stand there with the hose, but if water is not getting all the way down through the roots, the plant will not grow at its best.
Also, avoid wetting the foliage. This reduces the chance that edibles, especially cucumbers, melons and squash, will develop powdery mildew and other fungal diseases.
Lastly, if you are having trouble with earwigs, a good nontoxic remedy is to leave moistened, rolled-up newspapers overnight in the garden. Earwigs will crawl in, and in the morning, you can remove the paper and the pests.
• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California-certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.