Gardening

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August may be the hottest month of the summer, so take a few minutes to prepare before heading out to work in the garden.
1. Keep hydrated – Fill up a water bottle, adding half the volume as ice so that you have cool water to sip. Staying hydrated is as important for the gardener as it is for the garden. An inch of water a week is the rule for the garden so watch your rain gauge or listen to weather reports and plan to water if Mother Nature has not delivered on the inch of rain. Paying attention to this is especially important as fruits and vegetable are developing. Tomatoes and melons may require even more water. A soaker hose is the ideal method for watering but any way that water can be delivered to the root zone rather than overhead will work.  Avoid overhead sprinklers as a lot of the water is lost to evaporation or run off rather than getting to the soil level. If plants are crowded, this type of watering can encourage disease.
2. Stay flexible – Stretch out your back, arms, and legs in preparation for the lifting and bending that you will do while weeding and deadheading flowers. These few minutes will help to mitigate the strain that repetitive tasks can induce; plus, gardening uses muscles that may not be used a lot when we are at work. Gardening can burn an impressive amount of calories and while metabolism, weight and activity are factors, the average 150-lb. person can burn up to 326 calories per hour while gardening.
3. Control weeds – Weed once a week so things don’t get out of control. If there is no mulch, add 1 to 2 inches of shredded bark mulch or straw to control weeds and retain moisture.
4. Check for disease – Scout for disease or insects once or twice a week, checking the undersides of leaves. A spray of water is often all it takes to dislodge aphids. Diseases are tricky and best left to Master Gardeners or horticulture staff to diagnose at your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.
5. Avoid insect bites – Gardeners need to be aware of illnesses caused by mosquitoes and ticks. Using a repellent (DEET or essential oils sprayed on clothing, not skin) and dressing to avoid contact are the usual tactics to prevent insect bites but many gardeners are trying some of the new products that offer protection by easy and odorless means. Clothing with ‘Insect Shield’ has built-in repellent action against several insects for up to 70 washings. This new technology had its beginnings in an effort to protect children in Third World countries from insect-borne disease and was registered as insect repellent apparel with the EPA in the fall of 2003. The logic is simple with the pesticide permethrin impregnated into the clothing (Insect Shield process) to fend off mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, midges and flies. Several clothing companies such as L.L.Bean, Orvis and Rei, are offering shirts, pants, hats, and bandannas that have this “insect shield” protection.
6. Beat the heat – During hot spells most plants will slow down or stop growing to conserve energy. Take a tip from the plants and work in the garden early in the day or later in the afternoon or evening.
Sources: www.fitnessblender.com; www.insectshield.com.

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