It's hot: Tips for protecting pets and plants

Editor's note: This story was originally published at sacbee.com on June 14, 2012.

With temperatures rising in the Sacramento region, it's good to know how to protect your pets and plants from the heat.

The Sacramento SPCA offers this hot-weather advice for pet owners

1. Make sure there's plenty of fresh, cool water for pets to drink.

2. Never leave pets in a parked car, not even with the windows cracked.

3. Avoid puddles of auto coolant in garages, driveways and parking lots. The liquid is sweet-tasting but poisonous.

4. Don't let pets ride in the back of an open vehicle such as a pickup truck.

5. Stay clear of lawns that may have been treated with pesticide.

6. Keep pets well-groomed, but don't shave them thinking it will keep them cool. Animals' coats are meant to insulate them from sun and heat. Shaving them can lead to overheating and sunburn.

7. Mist dogs with a spray bottle or let them run through the sprinklers.

10 rules to help you and your garden beat the heat

1. Mulch is mandatory. Mulch is like an old quilt. Spread a layer around plants and they’re snug and happy. Mulches keep soil temperature cooler, reduce evaporation and smother weeds. They also improve the appearance of flower beds.

Mulches can be organic (leaves, compost, bone meal, pine needles, bark, wood chips) or inorganic (gravel, black plastic, tumbled glass, rubber).

Either way, mulch is mandatory. Plan a mulching party. Invite your friends. Get mulching.

2. Right plant, right place ... or else. Summer heat is as forgiving as the IRS. Stick a plant in the wrong place and it’s a goner. Sun and shade requirements are printed on the plant labels, but some folks don’t bother to read it or miscalculate how much sun an area actually receives.

Planting in the wrong place can be expensive. Japanese maple cultivars won’t tolerate too much afternoon sun. The delicate laceleaf varieties are most likely to suffer burned leaves. Plant Japanese maples on the north and east side of structures where they’ll have afternoon shade or as underplantings beneath taller tree canopies.

Banana trees and citrus will do better on the south side where it’s warmer and sunnier all year. Other full-sun tolerant plants are lantana, tomatoes, basil, salvias, cactuses, sunflowers, succulents, verbena and marigolds.

3. Lawn is not required. Contrary to popular belief, lawns aren’t a requirement for a beautiful landscape. Compromise and consider reducing lawn areas by removing portions and enlarging flower beds. Less lawn, more flowers will reduce water usage, turf pesticides and mowing.

Bring the beds out in bold, sweeping curves and plant a variety of bulbs, annuals and perennials. Instead of lawn bordering the front walkway, create curvaceous flower beds 3 or 4 feet wide on each side.

A few drought-resistant plants consider: yarrow, rudbeckia (coneflower), spirea, gazania, lamb’s ears, star jasmine, rockrose, butterfly bush, lantana and coreopsis.

4. Drought-tolerant plants need water. A common misconception is that drought-tolerant plants don’t need to be watered. Unless you’ve chosen plastic plants, you have to water. In order to establish root systems, these plants require regular watering the first year or two.

Once the root system has matured, they become drought-tolerant and require much less water.

5. Watering has regular hours. Water is a horrible thing to waste, and in this time of drought, follow regulations in your community.

Sprinklers are much more efficient if timers are set between 2 and 8 a.m. You can push it to 10 a.m., but figure on more evaporation.

Flowers, trees, shrubs and vegetable gardens are best watered by drip irrigation, with soaker hoses or by flooding basins with a garden hose.

Plants near paved surfaces, stucco walls and large stones and those planted on the south or west sides of homes are subjected to more heat and thus need more water. Again, water in themorning. If you prefer evening watering, keep water off foliage.

6. Plan for shade. Shade is precious during periods of triple-digit temperatures. If you’re fortunate to live under a mature leaf canopy, shade is in abundance. However, yards in new developments can resemble moonscape.

Yards can be shaded using plants like bamboo (use clumping varieties), wisteria, grape vines, kiwi or folding screens, awnings and covered patios. Instant shade is created by planting bamboo in large containers or by placing a decorative screen in the right spot. Privacy is another benefit of anything tall enough to shade an area.

7. Summer veggies love sunlight. Spindly, wimpy veggies, eh? Most often it’s because they aren’t absorbing enough sunlight. Six hours of sun is minimum for summer veggies; 8 or 10 hours is much better. Vegetables should be planted in the sunniest location on the property.

As much as peppers love sun, they do benefit from late-afternoon protection to ward off sunburn. Group peppers close together to form a dense leaf canopy that will shield ripening peppers from sunburn. Or drape shade fabric over peppers.

And never prune tomatoes!

Allow the long stems to drape over each other or use tall, sturdy support cages. Tomato foliage plays an important role in Sacramento vegetable gardens.

8. Don’t get burned! Summer in the valley can be hard on gardeners. It’s best to stay out of gardens from late morning until early evening to avoid sunburn and heat-related illnesses. Don’t overdo it.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat, drink plenty of water and use sunscreen.

Short-cycle gardening is one way to beat the heat. Spend 10 or 15 minutes gardening, then take a break on the patio or inside the house.

9. Comfort roses. Roses shut down during the hottest weeks of summer. They take a break and store up for a final fall bloom cycle. You can help. Roses will need plenty of water until fall weather arrives. Make sure there’s adequate mulch (3 inches deep or so). Other than deadheading (removing old blooms), resist pruning off any foliage this time of year. Every square inch of shade is important.

Members of the Sierra Foothills and Sacramento rose societies have compiled an excellent list of the best roses for Sacramento’s climate on the Web site www.sactorose.org.

10. Be container smart. Use large containers. Get rid of those dinky pots that demand watering twice a day in summer. Miss a day with a small pot and the plant is dead tissue. A pot less that 16 inches across is too small for Sacramento. The larger the container, the fewer times you'll have to water and the more plants you can group for spectacular displays. With all containers, it's best to raise them up on pot feet or pieces of wood during summer to prevent direct contact with hot surfaces. Smaller pots heat up faster and are more likely to roast feeder roots. Once delicate feeder roots are torched, chances of recovery are slim. Grouping pots together is a good way to create shade and reduce heat damage.

- Bee files

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