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Get ready for hot days ahead

Straw on top of newspaper is a good start for mulch in the vegetable garden -- maybe add some more straw with warmer weather coming. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Make your plants comfortable with a little TLC now

It’s only the first week of May, but it already feels like summer.

That’s actually pretty normal, according to the National Weather Service. This week last year, Sacramento hit 100 degrees – the first triple-digit day of 2019.

We’re not expected to get that hot this week, although several days in the 90s are forecast. But those 100-degree days are not far away. If we aren’t comfortable, how will our plants handle the summer heat?

Take some time now to help your garden cope with the heat to come. Not only will your plants stay better hydrated, they’ll suffer less disease, too.

Follow this advice from the UC Cooperative Extension master gardeners:

* Deep-water trees and shrubs. This helps build their reserves and trains their roots to go deep.

* Create water basins around trees, shrubs and many summer vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. A basin holds in extra water just a little longer so it slowly seeps into soil. It’s easy to make a basin: Around the plant, build a soil berm about 3 inches high and at least 1 foot from the main stem (for tomatoes) to 6 feet (for trees). But don’t let water stand against trunks or main stems; that can cause crown rot.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! Put down a layer of insulating organic mulch (leaves, straw, wood chips, etc.) about 3 to 4 inches deep around trees and shrubs as well as any bare areas in the vegetable garden. Leave a circle open around the trunks or main stems of plants (again, this is to avoid crown rot and other issues). Mulch conserves moisture and keeps plant roots comfortable. It also adds nutrients to the soil, protects soil microbes and controls weeds. What’s not to like?

* Check your sprinklers and irrigation system. Now is the time to make adjustments and repairs.

* Water early in the day. This both conserves water and cuts down on fungal diseases.

* One good thing about high heat: It wipes out many fungal disease problems. Powdery mildew disappears as the temperature rises.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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