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Mulch is good, and more mulch is better

Don't let the sun cook your plants' roots

104 -- and not yet the peak of the heat.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)
It's June 4 and it's going to be at least 100 degrees again this afternoon. Do you know where your mulch is?
I bought more straw this morning after I took a soil thermometer out into my rapidly heating backyard Wednesday afternoon. The air temperature at 2:15 p.m. was 99 degrees, according to my cellphone's weather app, and the wall thermometer in the shade in the garden itself read 98. So it already was plenty hot.
I stuck the soil thermometer into the top inch of a non-mulched spot next to a basil plant in my raised bed, which at that point was in full sun (and had been for several hours).
The thermometer popped up to 104 degrees -- in the area on the thermometer helpfully labeled "MAX."
I pushed the thermometer down several inches in the same spot; the number dropped to 97 degrees. Still quite hot, but better.  Next I tried a shady area in the same raised bed: 82 degrees, in the optimal range. So my goal is to bump up the mulch here, and keep those plant roots in the optimal range. The cooking can happen later, in the kitchen.
A few other gardening notes on this early June day:
-- Harvest Day this year will be virtual, because of the coronavirus risk. This is a big event held the first Saturday in August at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. The UCCE Sacramento County master gardeners typically show off their demonstration gardens in a festive atmosphere. This year, the master gardeners will have a collection of videos highlighting their various areas. There will be a lot more information coming as we get closer to August. One good thing: The videos will allow folks who've never been able to attend Harvest Day to "visit" the Hort Center.
Squash plants, hanging in there. They'll get more
-- Keep a close eye on your vegetable plants. With this heat, all the nasty things that can happen to them are being exacerbated. Bugs! Wilting! Fungus! Pollination problems! But remember: Don't overwater; don't feed a plant that's wilting; keep some shade cloth handy for the plants suffering most. Oh, and mulch!


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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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