Too Hot to Hoe
Hiding inside the house from triple-digit days
By Anita Clevenger
There’s no time for Sacramento gardeners to spring clean their houses. We are outside every possible moment, preparing the soil, weeding and planting. When we aren’t hard at work, we’re enjoying the beauty of spring flowers and the miracle of new growth. Springtime gardeners don’t notice if there are cobwebs hanging from the ceiling or dust bunnies under the bed.
Then, a series of days with triple-digit heat hits sometime in July or August. My response is to retreat into the house when it starts to sizzle. That’s when I see how filthy it’s become. Suddenly, I’m pushing furniture out from the walls and laundering the couch’s slipcovers. I’m washing grimy windows and scrubbing the floors. The cat hides from all the commotion, and my husband sighs and helps me clean.
Fortunately, our nights are usually cool, so there’s an opportunity to water and take care of a few garden chores early or late in the day.
Before I retired, I built a few extra minutes into my morning routine to water my garden and see how things were growing. Those Zenlike moments were a great antidote to a stressful life. Now, my life is easier and my schedule more flexible, but an early-morning jaunt in the garden still soothes my soul. It’s a good time to harvest summer vegetables so that they keep producing, and to deadhead flowers to encourage more bloom. You can watch for summer pests, especially spider mites, which love hot, dry, dusty conditions. A blast of water from the hose will wash them off, and it’s refreshing for the plants and for the person wielding the hose. You can check to make sure that you have a good layer of mulch keeping the soil cool and moist.
In the peak of summer, it’s a good idea to deep-water your fruit and ornamental trees every week or two. You can put a soaker hose around their driplines and let it run overnight. August is a good time to feed roses in anticipation of their fall flush, and to give citrus trees their last feeding of the year.
August is not too early to begin planting seeds for a fall vegetable garden, either in the ground or in containers if your space is limited. The Sacramento County Master Gardeners’ Gardening Guide Calendar includes a seed planting chart that shows now is the time to start many favorite greens and plants such as onions or leeks. (Wait to plant garlic until September to December.) The 2013 calendar debunks a dozen gardening myths and provides a wealth of gardening information and tips.
The Master Gardeners will be selling the calendar at Harvest Day, which will be held on August 4 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fair Oaks Park. This annual event is worth attending even if the day is a scorcher. Thankfully, most of the action is staged under shade trees and canopies. Where else can you get a free opportunity to taste luscious summer fruits and an array of tomatoes, and to attend gardening lectures about soil, tools, composting, vertical gardens and winter herbs and vegetables?
When it’s too hot to hoe and there are no shady garden events to attend, you can always stay inside and look at the bulb catalogs. Spring bulbs will soon be arriving in local stores, but you can get a wider selection if you order by mail or on-line. Not only is autumn the time for planting spring bulbs, but it’s also best for planting trees, shrubs and perennials. You can start planning changes in your garden now. Read a gardening book or thumb through some garden magazines and get some fresh inspiration while avoiding the heat.
What will I be doing this August? I’ve already bought paint for the bedroom, decided to clean out some closets and am wondering just how dirty it is under the refrigerator. There is plenty to do. The hotter it is, the more my house will sparkle. Oh, for hot weather to be over, so that I can spend all of my time in the garden again and let the housework slide.
Anita Clevenger is a Sacramento County UC Master Gardener. For answers to gardening questions, to order the 2013 Garden Guide and Calendar or for information about Harvest Day, call 875-6913 or go to ucanr.org/sites/sacmg/.