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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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