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September heat wave dangerous for gardeners

National Weather Service warns people to stay indoors

If you do have to be in the garden the next few days, make it as early in the day as possible. Wear a hat and drink plenty of water -- then scurry indoors.

If you do have to be in the garden the next few days, make it as early in the day as possible. Wear a hat and drink plenty of water -- then scurry indoors.

Kathy Morrison

September’s heatwave has been epic, and the month isn't even a week old. Just ask the National Weather Service.

“Heat like this is rare and can be deadly,” the Sacramento NWS office tweeted Monday morning. “Entire population is at risk.”

With more triple-digit days on the way, the weather service’s excessive-heat warning has been extended through 8 p.m. Thursday.

After a balmy night in the high 70s, Monday started hot and got hotter. By 10 a.m., temperatures were already in the high 80s and headed north of 110.

“Labor Day will be very hot across interior #NorCal as the current heatwave cranks up another notch!” tweeted the weather service. “Most of the Central Valley is expected to see high temperatures above 110 degrees this afternoon. Practice heat safety!”

This string of extremes is unusual, added the weather service. “How significant is this September Heatwave? Several high and warm low temperature records could be broken, as well as the number of 100° and 110° days in a calendar year,” it tweeted.

On Monday, the weather service estimated that Downtown Sacramento had an 80% chance of breaking September’s all-time record of 109 degrees. That mark was tied on Labor Day 2020. Local predictions ranged from 110 to 112 degrees.

But the heat doesn’t stop there. The weather service says there’s an almost 1 in 4 chance – 24% – that Downtown Sacramento hits its all-time record high temperature of 114 degree on Tuesday; maybe not break it, but match it. Ouch!

“A prolonged period of dangerous heat is expected across interior NorCal this week (during this) excessive heat event,” the weather service says. “Everyone is at risk for heat-related illnesses if precautions are not taken. Drink plenty of water, seek air conditioning, and avoid spending time outdoors.”

No matter how much we want to go out and work in our gardens, now is not the time. Water as early as possible. Harvest anything that’s close to ripe. Then, retreat to some space in front of a fan. Show your houseplants some TLC.

Fortunately, the “heat dome” causing this triple-digit spree can’t stay there forever. The weather service expects temperatures to cool back to normal – 91 degrees – by Sunday.

For more on Sacramento weather:


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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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