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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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Garden Checklist for week of April 21

This week there’s plenty to keep gardeners busy. With no rain in the immediate forecast, remember to irrigate any new transplants.

* Weed, weed, weed! Get them before they flower and go to seed.

* 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 is really hungry. Feed 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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