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COMING SOON ...Palo Alto's annual Festival of the Arts will be held all day Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 27 and 28, on University Avenue. The backbone of the festival and the key to its success are the 300 fine artists and crafters whose display booths are placed back-to-back along University Avenue. New this year is a Do-It-Yourself Chandelier Contest. The Italian Street Painting Expo, sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly, will again offer 60 chalk artists creating larger-than-life works of art all weekend long on Tasso Street. Also, the Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto will again manage and serve the micro-brews and fine wines that can be found throughout the festival.

DEFORMED VEGGIES? ... The master gardeners at the University of California Cooperative Extension are offering one of their free gardening workshops at the Palo Alto Library Thursday, July 21 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This workshop will focus on the timely topic of "Pests, Diseases, and Other Problems of Summer Veggies." Do your tomatoes look tormented? Your squash shriveled? Your peppers peculiar? Master Gardeners will talk about the most common challenges vegetable gardeners face this time of year and how to manage them. Participants are invited to bring in samples of plants that aren't doing well (larger samples are better), insects they have found damaging their plants (alive and well contained, if possible), and vegetables that just don't look right for diagnosis and discussion. The library is located at 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto.

CARROTS FOR YOU ... According to Garden Design magazine, carrots are best grown from seed but they are harvestable all year around. Carrot seeds can take a long time to germinate (aka sprout) and then grow to a harvestable size. So, as soon as the soil warms in spring and well before summer ends, it's important to sow seeds thickly into your prepared garden beds. Choose a seeding depth based on the seed packet's recommendations. Water immediately and regularly after sowing. Be patient, it will probably take longer than you think for these seeds to sprout. Once they do emerge from the soil, begin carefully tugging out a few babies here and there to make room for other carrots to mature. After several weeks of thinning repeatedly, you'll eventually be pulling up carrots big enough for a snack.

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