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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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