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After heat comes pests and problems

Record string of hot days may be finally over

Lady beetle on crape myrtle
A lady beetle works on a crape myrtle that is showing signs of an aphid infestation
(honeydew on the leaves, especially). (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

The final numbers are not yet in, but 2020 will have another distinction: It ranks among the warmest years on record in Sacramento.

According to weather experts, Sacramento hit 90 degrees or hotter on 125 days in 2020 – including Tuesday. In all of 2019, Sacramento had 93 days at 90 or hotter. That’s like a month extra of over-90 days!

Historically, those 125 days eclipsed by more than two weeks the previous record of 90-plus hot days – 110, set in 1984.

Fortunately, our weather is finally cooling down to something approaching normal for late October in Sacramento. In fact, it may even feel chilly. The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 67 degrees on Sunday with days in the low 70s most of next week.

What does this mean in your garden? An onslaught of pest and fungal issues.

* After so much heat and dusty dry conditions, spider mites have been loving our Indian summer. They’ll continue to stick around until rain or a strong blast from the hose knocks them off plants.

Aphid damage on milkweed leaf
Aphid damage is apparent on this narrow-leaf milkweed plant.
Knock aphids off with water.

* Aphids and white flies are having a big surge. They’re attacking new tender growth on plants that are having a late growth spurt. Try knocking them off with water, too, or some insecticidal soap.

* Late-season caterpillars are munching holes in anything edible. Look on the underside of leaves and pick them off.

* Snails and slugs also like cooler weather – and eat everything. Pick them off when they’re most active (about an hour after nightfall).

* Expect to see an explosion of powdery mildew on roses and other susceptible shrubs. This fungal disease lurks in old mulch or fallen leaves under bushes. When high temperatures cool into the 70s (as we’ll see this week), powdery mildew suddenly returns. If leaves look puckered (but not yet dusted with white), pick them off; that puckering precedes the spores.

* Rust, another fungal disease, returns in late October with a vengeance. Again, it’s the weather. Rust spores look like orange specks on the underside of rose leaves. By removing infected leaves early, you can stop a major outbreak. Pick up fallen foliage to prevent rust from returning next spring.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. 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 zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

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

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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