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Keep your garden cool during triple-digit heat

With 100-degree days coming soon, these tips will save your plants

The soil looks dry on top, but the moisture meter shows that it's plenty wet down at the roots.

The soil looks dry on top, but the moisture meter shows that it's plenty wet down at the roots.

Kathy Morrison

Well, we knew our cool weather wouldn’t last. Triple-digit days are on their way – just in time for a red-hot Fourth of July weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, the Sacramento region can expect highs of 100 to 110 degrees this weekend, peaking on Saturday, July 1.

“An Excessive Heat Watch is in effect from 11 AM Friday to 11 PM Sunday for the Valley and foothills,” tweeted the NWS Sacramento office on Tuesday morning. “These are the highest temps we've seen this year! With this happening during the holiday weekend, NOW is the time to prepare: Have a way to stay cool & hydrated!”

Thursday could be the first of several triple-digit days. Friday’s forecast calls for 103 in downtown Sacramento and 105 on Saturday. That’s almost a 30-degree leap from Sunday, June 26, which recorded a high of only 76 degrees.

This first real heat of summer could take a toll on your garden. Your new transplants aren’t used to these extremes.

Before that first 100-degree day, prepare your garden – and yourself – for the heat ahead:

* Stay hydrated! That applies to both you and your garden. Water early in the day – before 8 a.m. if possible – to cut down on evaporation.

* Cycle and soak. Water needs a chance to soak in, especially if you have clay soil. Otherwise, it will run off (and down the drain) instead of reaching roots. Run your irrigation for a short period. Wait an hour or two. Then, run your system again. The water from the second cycle will reach deeper than the first.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! A layer of 3 inches of straw, wood chips, dried leaves or other organic material will keep soil and roots cooler while conserving moisture.

* Shade sensitive plants and developing fruit on tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash. Your harvest can get sunburned. Protect from intense afternoon rays with temporary shade such as burlap draped over trellises.

* Wilting can be normal. Some big-leafed plants such as squash may seem to wilt every hot afternoon; that’s OK. They recover overnight. It’s when they’re still wilted in the morning that it’s a problem.

* Check the soil before you water. It may look dry on top, but still have enough moisture in the root zone 6 inches below the surface. Plants can suffer from too much water (especially in containers) as well as not enough. But remember that containers dry out quickly in heat -- any hanging plants especially may need to be watered twice daily.

* Prioritize your watering. Deep-water trees and shrubs, which are your landscape’s most valuable and slowest-growing plants.

* Switch to drip. Drip irrigation puts water where plants need it – at the roots.

Heat is often on the minds behind Sacramento Digs Gardening. Here are links to several past columns with heat-related advice:

-- Get Ready for Hot Days Ahead

-- Mulch is Good, and More Mulch is Better

-- 5 Hacks for Shading Your Precious Vegetables

-- Hot Tomato! How to Help Your Vines During High Heat

-- Speaking for the Trees: Don't Forget Them in This Heat

-- For Best Roses in Heat, Watch Water and Mites

And if you’re too late:

-- Rescuing  a Heat-Stressed Plant

Finally, for the gardener:

--- Too Hot to Think? Follow These Tips

– Debbie Arrington and Kathy Morrison


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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