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Get ready for a heat wave


This little tomato is in danger of getting sunburned in triple-digit heat. Shade cloth and burlap are options for afternoon shade. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Triple-digit temperatures are on the way; help your garden cope



Is your garden ready for summer? Although we’ll officially still be in spring for almost another month, high heat is coming very soon.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will rise rapidly over Memorial Day weekend. The greater Sacramento area could hit triple digits as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.

Several days in the high 90s are forecast including a string of midweek 99s.

Take time now before this late May heat wave to help your garden cope:

* Deep water shrubs, trees, perennials and vegetables. Give your tomatoes a good soaking.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! Spread a thick, cooling layer of organic material to retain that moisture and keep plant roots temperate. Use straw, old leaves, bark, grass clippings, even shredded newspaper. Don’t use rocks; they retain too much heat.

Heat will make artichokes open quickly.
* Harvest lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and other cool-season vegetables. This heat will cause them to bolt – send out flower shoots and go quickly to seed. Higher temperatures also tends to make greens bitter.

* Harvest artichokes before the flowers open. (The heat will open them quickly.) Those little artichokes on side shoots won’t get bigger; they’re ready, just smaller.

* Shade peas, spinach and other cool-season crops that aren’t ready to harvest. Erect temporary shade structures to ward off some of that blistering afternoon sun. That will buy those veggies a few more weeks of production.

* Already have baby tomatoes or peppers? Shade those plants in the hot afternoon, too, to protect from sunburn.

* Keep an eye on new plantings and seedlings. Make sure they stay hydrated. Check soil moisture and water in the early morning or evening.

* Create some needed summer shade for veggies – plant sunflowers. These fast-growing (and tall) plants can shade neighbors who appreciate an afternoon break from direct sun such as peppers or eggplant.

* Let the vines keep the soil cooler. Plant watermelons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, squash and other vining crops. Their vines will cover the soil, keeping it cooler and blocking out weeds. To be doubly effective, mulch around the plants before the vines cover everything.

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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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