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Keep your cool: Tips on avoiding heat-related illness

No doubt about it: Summer is here. Protect your health in the garden. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Gardeners are at risk during triple-digit days

Sacramento’s real summer has finally arrived. Triple-digit temperatures will be the norm this week – just in time for the wrap-up of the State Fair.

Expect to see more days in the 100s in August. It’s Sacramento; we should be used to such summer extremes.

But even longtime residents may ignore the dangers of heat exposure. Too much heat can make you sick; it can even kill you.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 200 Americans die each year from heat-related illnesses.

Gardeners are particularly vulnerable. We want to be outside. We have work to do!

Don’t be a heat victim. Follow these tips from the Sacramento County master gardeners:

1. Acclimate yourself. Gradually get into a summer rhythm; a little time in the sun or outdoors, then a break in the shade or inside. Over days or weeks, you can increase your sun and heat exposure (and sweat less).

2. Make use of cool time. Do your most strenuous tasks during the coolest parts of the day (or night). Get chores done in the early morning or evening. (That’s also the best time to water.)

3. Drink plenty of fluids. That means water or electrolyte-packed sports drinks, not coffee and sodas. Plan on at least one quart of water per hour of outdoor activity. Avoid caffeinated beverages; they make you thirstier.

4. Wear sun protection, such as a brimmed hat and light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, preferably cotton. Sunscreen is a good idea, too.

5. Find some shade and use it. Frequent breaks out of the sun are important to regulate your body’s temperature. If no shade is readily available, make some with a portable umbrella or shade structure.

6. Know the symptoms of heat-related illness, such as light-headedness, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, cramping and nausea. If you’re feeling any of those symptoms, get out of the sun. Take a break in the shade.

7. If you suspect heat stroke, call 911. When suffering heat stroke, you stop sweating and your body can’t regulate its temperature. It’s serious and needs immediate medical attention.

8. Remember: Tomorrow is another day. It may be cooler. Do that chore in the morning.

Need help for heat-stressed plants? Check out tips for tomatoes
here or plants in general (especially container plants) here.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

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

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* 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 fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* 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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