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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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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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