When temperatures start heading into 3-digit territory, even the most sun-loving plants can start suffering from the effects of Georgia’s mid-summer sauna. Excessive heat not only increases the amount of water a plant needs each day, it can also cause the plant to become less productive and more susceptible to insect damage. “Heat can cause blossoms to drop, and sometimes you’ll see a decrease in pollinator activity,” said Sheri Dorn, coordinator of the Georgia Master Gardener Program. “Those will both impact your fruit set and ultimately plant yield.” Dorn doesn’t recommend sticking a fan out in your garden or bringing your plants inside to spend time with you in the air conditioning, but there a few ways you can help your vegetable garden beat the heat. Planning aheadOne of the best and easiest tactics is to think about the late summer when you’re laying out your garden in the early spring. An ideal garden spot will have 6 to 8 hours of bright sun but benefit from the shadow of a tree, or even a fence, during the late afternoon. “This is the easiest way to protect plants from the summer heat, but obviously it takes a long time to grow a tree — so it might not help this summer,” she said. Last minute solutionsOne good thing about a container garden is that you can move the pots into shade in the afternoon if the plants start to look a little sunbaked. “However, once you get any sizable fruit on the plant you need to be very careful because they can fall off when you’re moving the pot,” she said. Alternately, gardeners could take a cue from large production growers and spread shade cloth over their most delicate blooms or vegetables during times of extraordinary heat. It may be time consuming and messy-looking, but it could protect your harvest, she said. In studies done by faculty at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, researchers found that 30 percent shade cloth worked best to improve the production of delicate plants like bell peppers. Athens Master Gardener John Aitkens added that plants can sometimes shade themselves. After years of clipping the suckers off of his tomato plants, he let them go this year. The shade created by the extra leaves has made a world of difference on the number of tomatoes he’s seeing and for the health of the plant, he said. Mulching is keyAitkens gave a presentation on vegetable gardening during the summer, as part of the Lunch and Learn Series at his local library, just as this most recent heat wave was starting. Based on the questions that people asked at the presentation, he believes that the biggest problem facing plants during the summertime is irregular watering and unmulched beds. Unmulched beds can let water evaporate from the soil before plants have a chance to absorb it, and irregular watering can cause serious stress on plants, he said. In the last year he has become a serious advocate of soaker hoses and irrigation timers. The regular and adequate moisture, with a thick layer of mulch, has kept his vegetable garden healthy this year despite the record-setting temperatures.
The countdown has officially begun.Spring break is just days away, and many students have already mentally checked out of class and checked into vacation mode.Whether you’re heading on a cruise to Ensenada, Mexico, or simply lounging around Los Angeles next week, remember one thing: Most spring athletes aren’t getting a break.That’s right. The majority of athletes will still be practicing on a daily basis and putting their skills to the test against opponents next week.Although athletes, like all other students, probably deserve a week completely away from class and work (in this case, the field, court or track), it’s an impossible task to accomplish because universities don’t share the same spring break schedules.But just because athletes won’t be getting the spring break we all know and love doesn’t necessarily mean they will be stuck in Los Angeles.As always, being an athlete has an upside.Remember, half of athletes’ games and performances take place on the road, and this is no different during spring break. In fact, many USC teams are traveling away from Southern California next week, and some are headed to some pretty exciting places around the country.So without further delay, here is my top-three list for travel destinations for USC athletes next week.At the top is Hawaii, where the baseball and women’s water polo teams will be headed. After all, who wouldn’t like to be in Hawaii for spring break?Yes, both teams will be headed to Honolulu, and, when they’re not competing in the most tropical state in the country, I’m sure many of the athletes will find time to lie out on the sand, surf, parasail or attend a luau, among other festivities.Sounds pretty fun to me.If I were a member of either of those teams, I wouldn’t be feeling too bad about having to travel with my team for spring break.Coming in second place would be Las Vegas. Those partiers on the men’s golf team will be participating in the Southern Highlands Collegiate this weekend.I think just about everyone would agree that whether you’re in Vegas for work, sports or just vacation time, you’re going to find a way to have fun. Something as simple as walking down the strip on a Friday evening in Vegas could end up being filled with an endless night of laughter and memories.Well, laughter and blurry memories, at least.Just like in Hawaii, a weekend in Vegas sounds like a pretty great way to spend spring break. The only reason it doesn’t top Hawaii on my list is because, if you’re attending USC and of age, you could drive to Vegas just about any weekend you want and enjoy everything Sin City has to offer.After these top-two destinations, there’s a bit of a drop off, but I feel pretty confident in my third and final pick.Rounding out the top three on my list would have to be Durham, N.C. The men’s tennis team is headed to take on Duke.Although some might not understand this pick, I’ve heard absolutely great things about Durham. It’s a college town that has a fun nightlife, great music, and it’s only a few hours away from Atlanta or Washington, D.C. So there are other options if it ends up not living up to its potential. It’s just a couple hours away from the beaches and mountains as well.So it provides many possibilities for fun and entertainment, weather permitting, and that’s why Durham squeezes into my top three, just ahead of Houston (sorry women’s swimming and diving team).After seeing those destinations, you’re probably thinking that being an athlete during spring break isn’t so bad after all.But it must be noted that some athletes will be stuck in Los Angeles next week, and others will be traveling to some not-so-thrilling places in the country (say hello to Provo, Utah, men’s volleyball team).Either way, the bottom line is athletes still have work to do during spring break while the rest of us can simply relax for the most part.It’s just that some athletes get to work in better places than others.“Soft Hands” runs on Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Jon at [email protected]