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Weekend DIY project: Shield your garden from this blistering heat

Weekend DIY project: Shield your garden from this blistering heat
Build a frame, and then drape shade fabric (or an old sheet) over it to shield your plants. (Margaret Park)

Is your garden shriveling in this blistering heat?

Ours too.

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We're barely into August, which means there are still weeks if not months of searing heat ahead of us, and our tomato plants can't take much more.

The easiest answer — move plants so they miss the sun's burning rays during the hottest part of the day — is not always possible. (Especially if you have a day job.)

But there are still plenty of ways to protect your plants where they stand.

Look around your home and garage. You probably have a few items that you can jury-rig into a shield. An old pallet, for example, or a stretch of discarded latticework can be propped up to lend a bit of shade. And an old bed sheet or window screen can be fastened to wooden stakes to create a temporary sunscreen. Just be sure to keep the cloth several inches from the plant, so it doesn't retain heat.

For something a bit more visually appealing (and costly), you could string up sailcloth or some other type of shade fabric.

But our favorite advice came from Salt Lake City gardener Margaret Park, author of "More Food From Small Spaces."

She suggests using 3/4-inch PVC piping — the kind you can find at most hardware stores — to create a portable frame that can be perfectly tailored for your garden's needs. Build it around your plant bed, and then drape it with shade cloth and secure it with clips.

"It reminds me of playing with Tinker Toys," Park said.

We priced out what it would cost to build a 3-by-6-by-6-foot frame, including three-way elbow connectors for the corners and T connectors for the middle, and figured that you could do this for about $35, max. (Pro tip: Try to find a store that will cut the piping for your desired measurements, otherwise you will need a hacksaw or a PVC cutter and some elbow grease.)

Park also recommends T connectors every 3 feet to keep the pipes from sagging.  You can go online to watch a video of Park showing off her DIY frame. Here's a video of Park showing off her D.I.Y. frame.

If you have a clever ways to protect your plants over the next few weeks of heat, tweet us a picture at @LATimeshome

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