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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.

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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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