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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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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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