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Gardeners, here's how to cope with this heat wave


Pretty eggplant can be scorched by the sun -- harvest them before they burn. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Stay hydrated -- both you and your plants



The heat is on! After a very mild August, Sacramento is getting blasted with triple-digit temperatures and the hottest days of the year (so far).

The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings for all of the Sacramento area. With high temperatures expected to top 105 degrees, conditions are described as “dangerous.”

“Heat like this only happens a few times a year,” according to the NWS bulletin. “Heat risk is high across much of the area, even for the general population.

“The rest of this week will see high temperatures in the triple digits in the Valley and some foothill locations,” added the NWS Sacramento office. “Little cooling is expected overnight. Stay hydrated and limit time outdoors if possible.”

Air quality districts also announced “Spare the Air” alerts with unhealthy air quality expected for sensitive groups such as children, seniors or people with heart or lung disease.

In other words, avoid being outdoors. Water plants deeply in the early morning or evening. Pay extra attention to container plants; they can dry out quickly.

Stay hydrated yourself, too. Drink plenty of water (not soda or coffee). When outside, dress in loose, lightweight clothing. Wear a hat and sunscreen.

During this heat wave, bring in your pets; if kept outside, make sure animals have shade and fresh water.

As for your plants, most cope better with heat than people do, as long as they have enough moisture. Check the soil around plants in the morning and water as needed. Avoid adding any fertilizer during this heat spell.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant can sunburn; harvest them before they bake on the bush.

The good news: This heat wave will be short. According to the NWS, we’ll be back to 89 degrees on Sunday – below normal.

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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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