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Smoky skies bring a little relief from record heat

Weather service predicts big cooldown this weekend in Sacramento

These Betty Boop roses, usually with bright red edges, faded immediately in the heat and sun. Instead, their petals are edged in brown. Their stamens dried out quickly, too, depriving bees of food.

These Betty Boop roses, usually with bright red edges, faded immediately in the heat and sun. Instead, their petals are edged in brown. Their stamens dried out quickly, too, depriving bees of food. Debbie Arrington

Smoky skies may bring an end to Sacramento’s string of record-hot days.

“It's a good news/bad news type of Friday here,” tweeted the Sacramento office of the National Weather Service. “Bad: #MosquitoFire smoke is affecting areas downwind of the fire. Good: Smoke may keep afternoon temps a few degrees cooler than originally forecast. Will have to wait & see how it plays out this afternoon during peak heating!”

That original forecast for Downtown Sacramento: 107 degrees.

Added the weather service, if you smell smell, avoid being outdoors.

This smoky day follows a record hot week including the all-time hottest temperature recorded in Sacramento: 116 degrees on Tuesday. (The weather service records go back to 1877.)

Thursday hit 113 – our 43rd triple-digit day this year. That set a new record -- the previous one was 41, set in 1988.

The combination of extreme heat and smoke has stressed plants as well as people. In my own garden, for example, my rose blooms are significantly smaller than usual. Petals are rimmed with brown before they open. Foliage looks sunburned – pale, silvery or toasted around the edges.

But more normal temperatures are on the way: Already in the forecast is a significant cooldown – a 20-degree drop – on Saturday, with clearer skies. “Onshore flow is expected to return tomorrow, so that should push the smoke more to the east/northeast,” tweeted the weather experts.

Weekend temperatures are expected to get no higher than 90 degrees in Sacramento. Afternoon highs in the low 80s are expected by Wednesday. Nighttime temperatures will be 20 degrees cooler, too, dipping into the mid 50s.

A pink rose with sunburned foliages
The heat dwarfed this Perfect Moment hybrid tea rose, usually a bright red and yellow blend. The bush's foliage shows signs of sunburn.

This weekend, survey the garden for heat stress. Trim off damaged foliage or toasted blooms. Rinse smoke residue off foliage. And enjoy some much better weather: The long-range September forecast is filled with days in the 80s.

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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the early hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.

* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes. 

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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