Gardens, plants feel the heat

July 25, 2002 11:00 pm

By GRACE METZGER

and SCOTT PESZNECKER

If heat waves and water shortages are leaving your plants parched, don't grab the green spray paint just yet.

Calaveras County green thumbs suggest there are better ways to quench your camellias.

"Soak them," said Rita Allen, co-owner of Wayward Greens Nursery in San Andreas with her husband, Rick. "Water them well.

"But certainly not in the middle of the day when it's really hot."

Wet leaves, she explained, can get scorched in intense sun.

Early morning is the best time to give plants a drink, said Carrol Lang of Lang's Little Acres outside Murphys. "Water in plants is like blood in humans," she said. "They (plants) need the nutrients from the water to endure the heat during the day."

It's especially important to water plants deeply, Lang said. A six-inch well should be dug around shrubs and trees and filled at least weekly.

Lang suggests placing a tray underneath particularly thirsty potted plants to catch excess water the plant can use later. Covering the soil around a plant with straw or bark mulch also helps conserve water, she said.

Plants potted in containers smaller than one gallon should be watered daily during the peak summer heat, Lang said.

Plants from one to three years old should get water two to three times per week and older, well-established plants can get by with one watering per week.

In times of water shortage, Allen uses biodegradable soap in everything from her washing machine to her kitchen sink. Then she recycles the water on her garden.

Meanwhile, just because a plant looks wilted doesn't mean it needs water.

"They'll bend over anyway and look wilted when they get hot, just like we wilt when we get hot," said Leila Losik, manager of Donlen Nursery in Altaville.

Plants can also suffer sun or wind burn when temperatures climb toward 100 degrees, Losik said, wilting leaves of affected plants.