You may be heading out for your summer vacation. But it doesn't look like the heat will be leaving town anytime soon. The Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service is forecasting above average temperatures through the first week of September for Northern and Central California. If you plan on being out of town for an extended period during the next few weeks, a little garden labor now will insure a healthy yard when you return from your holiday.
• Raise, group potted plants. Plants in containers can suffer if the soil is allowed to dry out; that can be as little as 24 hours during a heat wave. Raise the pots off of hot concrete surfaces with a plant stand or strips of wood. Outdoor potted plants and hanging plants should be moved to cooler, shaded areas, such as the north or east side of the house or beneath a patio cover. Place these plants close together to help keep their containers cooler. Hook up a water timer and sprinkler in the plants' vicinity.
• Be sure to water the soil around your in-ground plants deeply the day before you leave. If you don't have a drip system or soaker hose, let a garden hose slowly trickle water around your most prized plants for eight hours.
• Keep the soil cool and moist while your gone by adding mulch around the base of your trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and the vegetable garden. Make sure the mulch is applied at least four inches thick and extends to the dripline of each plant, keeping the mulch an inch or two away from the stem of the plant to prevent rot. Good choices for mulch include organic compost, landscape bark or tree branches that have been chipped or shredded.
• Water all houseplants thoroughly before leaving, allowing the water to run out the bottom of the container. Place the well-watered potted plants out of direct sunlight; this will help the plants retain moisture while your away.
• For more blossoms when you get home, remove fading or dead rose blooms before going on vacation.
• Don't fertilize your lawn or garden before you leave. That sudden spurt of new growth will require more water to keep the plants from undergoing stress.
• You may be on holiday, but slugs and snails never take a vacation from nibbling on your plants. Apply a granular snail killer product that contains iron phosphate, a safer alternative to those that use metaldehyde as the active ingredient.
• Don't come home to a jungle. Have a neighbor mow your lawn once a week while you are away.