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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 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

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

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

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

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

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

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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