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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Aug. 16

The heat is on; help your garden cope

Tomato plant with shade cloth
Shade cloth hung in front of tomato plants can help cut the sun's intensity. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Some like it hot -- but not this hot.

This is expected to be the hottest week of the year (so far). The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning, effective through 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Until then, expect daily temperatures to top 106 degrees each day, peaking at 110 on Tuesday. Thursday is forecast to reach 102 degrees before the triple-digit streak ends (maybe) on Friday, which is predicted to be "only" 98.

While people may retreat indoors to air conditioning (or at least shade), our gardens can not. They're dependent on us to make them as comfortable as possible.

* Deep water in the early morning. Pay extra attention to plants in containers; they may need extra water daily.
* Check soil moisture and make sure drip irrigation and sprinklers are getting water where needed. If you can't plunge a 6-inch screwdriver into the ground, it needs more water.
* Mosquitoes love this weather. Wear repellent while working outdoors. Empty any containers that hold water such as saucers under pots that may serve as mosquito breeding areas.
* Watch out for sunburn on tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Create temporary shade structures to shield developing fruit from harsh afternoon rays.
* Red tomatoes won't turn completely red in these conditions. Harvest mature tomatoes and let them redden on your kitchen counter.
* Pick up any dropped fruit; it attracts pests and promotes disease. (Plus it rots quickly in this heat.)
* Don't mow the lawn; it's not growing in this heat. The longer blades shade the roots and help the lawn cope with searing sun.
* Put off any planting or transplanting until conditions cool.
* Still got the urge to garden? Start seeds of cool-weather vegetables and flowers indoors. They'll be ready to go outdoors when temperatures are much more favorable.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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