Gardening in the summer heat

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As summer rolls into town, gardeners should keep a close eye on the weather report. Prolonged high temperatures and sudden heat waves can wreak havoc on plants. Taking precautions for extreme heat and noting the recommendations of the USDA Plant Hardiness chart can help gardeners beat the heat. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a geographically calculated metric that helps gardeners choose the correct varieties for their conditions and determine planting dates. The USDA takes into account frost dates, temperatures and general climate. Winters is located in gardening zone 9b, and qualifies as a year round planting zone. This means that there are still several crops that can be planted through the summer months. Sweet potato slips can be planted until the end of June.  Heat tolerant plants like okra, beans, peas and eggplant, can be planted through June and July. For the plants that are already in the ground, some will need assistance during the summer months. As the mercury begins to rise above the 100 degree marker, even the heat loving plants will need a break. Gino Mediati, an employee at Ace Hardware, says that his advice for people trying to protect gardens from triple digit heat is to water their plants heavily. Mediati recommends watering before the heat hits. This is a good week to check on all watering systems. The time to fix leaks and unknot tubing is before the high temperatures, not during. It isn’t just the high temperatures to look out for either. Mediati checks the weather report for wind conditions as well. High winds can lead to especially dry conditions. Making sure that the plants have enough water is the best way to ensure that the plants are equipped to face the arid climate. Investing in a moisture meter can be a good way to check for over or underwatering. These devices that can be purchased at hardware stores or online. A simple moisture meter costs around $10. After making sure that the plants are properly hydrated, creating shade is the next best way to protect produce. On hot summer days everyone needs a break from the sun, even full-sun plants. Temporary shade can be created with shade nets or light fabric. Providing shade will not only protect plants from sun damage, it will also reduce the amount of moisture that evaporates from the soil. Any plants that are in pots that can be moved should be relocated to shadier spots. This is a job that should take place in the cool of the day for the sake of the gardener. To make this migration easier, heavy planters can be mounted onto rollers. Potted plants are less durable because of their weaker root systems, so it is important to protect them from too much sun exposure.   After taking a few steps to protect plants from extreme conditions, Mediati suggests that gardeners not spend too much time worrying. “The plants can handle it,” Mediati says with a smile. “They’re used to being outside.” For more information about planting zones visit http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov.]]>

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