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THE HEAT IS ON!
By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner Golden Gecko

Now that we are into summer full bore, and temperatures are in the nineties and hundred degree range, our gardens can use a little extra attention to help them through the rest of summer. Some of the tips should have been done earlier for the best results; others can be done now for instant results.

Can you plant in the summer time when it this hot? Yes, but when you plant is very important. Try to do you planting in the early morning or at dusk when the sun in waning in the sky. Planting in the middle of the day is quite uncomfortable on you, the gardener. In an effort to get the job done and get back into the air conditioning, you may hurry things up, not taking the time to dig the hole properly, mix you amendments correctly, or water the plant in properly. When you remove the plant from the container you purchased it in, the heat and sunlight can dry or burn the roots of the plant, resulting in crispy leaves days later. Planting early morning or late in the day will keep the roots from being burned. You will be more comfortable and more likely to take the time to do the job properly.

If you are planning to do major landscaping you might want to prepare the site for planting this fall. Many people do not realize that fall is a wonderful time to plant. In the foothills the fall planting season starts around the middle of September and lasts, depending on the weather, through October and much of November. Yes, I know it can still be hot in September, but the sun is not as high in the sky as in summer. Plants roots will love the warm soil, growing even if the above ground portion of the plant is begging to go dormant. Come spring of next year this root system will support much more growth that spring planted shrubs and trees.

With hot dry winds blowing now, plant roots, especially shallow rooted types, like Japanese Maples, can dry out rather quickly. To prevent this from happening try covering the surface of the soil with a protective layer of mulch. Shredded Red Cedar, and Fir Mulch, are two such items. These items are decorative top dressings, that when applied about 2 inches thick around the base of plants will dramatically reduce the need for water. Covering the bare soil with mulch keeps the soil cool, and reduces changes in moisture content. Here in the foothills, where the heat is intense, and there is little humidity in the air, mulching is almost a must. Those of you from the cooler coastal areas will find out just how much drier our soil gets without the coastal influence.

Watering in the morning is generally better than watering at night. When you water at night, especially with your lawn, the moisture remains on the foliage, sometimes promoting the incidence of fungus. Watering in the morning allows the foliage to dry out, reducing the conditions that promote fungus. Still, if your plants are dry, water, no mater what time of day it is.

Container plants in the sun can dry out, even with daily watering. The side of the pot, exposed to the direct rays of the sun, can get quite hot even with moist soil. Sometimes this can burn the roots that have grown right up to the edge of the inside of the pot, causing leaf scorch. To prevent this try grouping smaller container plants around the larger pot. This will help to shield the sides of the pot from the rays of the sun, keeping the pots dramatically cooler.

Take it easy on yourself, plant in the early morning or late in the day, and enjoy the hard work you put into your garden this spring.

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