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Beat The Heat This Summer In Your Garden!

June 15th, 2013

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During the dog days of summer, you and your plants need some extra TLC – particularly when it hits above 100 degrees. It only takes a few hours for the sun’s rays to damage your plants beyond repair while you were splashing around in the pool (not that we blame you!). To make summer gardening beneficial for your plants and more bearable on yourself, here are some quick and easy tips.

Taking note of your plants. When the heat is on, plants will show signs of distress. Look for browning, yellowing and/or wilted leaves with little to no flowering.  They may also feel crisp when touched. If there are already signs of damage, you may be able to save your plants for successful harvesting. Make sure to mulch 3 to 4 inches to help conserve water, and when watering, give your plants a good, deep soak. Mulching also cools the soil temperature by shielding it from direct sunlight. To prevent damage, read further.

Watering. Depending on what region you live in, you may be experiencing drought. If so, and if you are dealing with water restrictions, you will need to be thoughtful with the day(s) and time(s) you water. If you can, water your plants deeply when it’s cooler in the early morning or evening. If you have drip irrigation, great! If not, you may want to invest in soaker hoses. If you’re fortunate to get a summer monsoon season, a water harvesting barrel is a great way to water your vegetables and reduce your water bills.

Feeding your plants. Many plants may hold back fruit in the hot weather, making it important that you continue to encourage fruit by providing nutrients. One easy way to do this is by side-dressing your plants with compost. Making your own compost is easy (see tips here), plus it makes a rockin’ natural fertilizer for your garden. Limiting weeds can also reduce competition for nutrients and water with your plants – pesky little things aren’t they? If it’s too hot to go weed pullin’ – you may want to try in the evening.

Shade. If your plants are showing signs of heat stress, you should provide them with shade during the hottest part of the day, generally between 11am and 3pm. You can purchase shading material at your local garden center or you can construct a shade barrier using old bed sheets and poles. Summerweight garden fabric is also a nice investment; it can shield plants from damaging rays, and protect crops from birds, insects and other nuisances. Lattices and old screens also work well to shade vulnerable plants.

Keeping your cool. Summer’s heat can be brutal and dangerous to the gardener as well, so it’s important that you protect yourself when in your garden. Using sun block and wearing a wide brimmed hat, loose fitting pants and a light-colored long-sleeved shirt or tee shirt will help reduce skin damage due to the sun’s powerful rays. Wetting or freezing a collar or a towel can also keep you feeling fresh. Furthermore – make sure to have plenty of water within reach while you work!

Best of luck this summer! What are your favorite ways to beat the summer heat within your garden? Do tell…

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What To Plant Late Summer For A Fall Harvest

July 24th, 2012

With temperatures steadily rising, and many cities experiencing one of the worst heat waves in decades, it’s hard to imagine that fall is just a few short months away.  If you’re already dreaming of chilly temps and a gorgeous fall harvest, you may want to consider planting now, or in the near future. There are a variety of plants that are adapted to grow well in warm soil, when temperatures increasingly get cooler. Choosing fast maturing plants will also ensure that your bounty can be harvested before the fall frosts become an issue.

What to Plant in the Summer

First, check out the average frost date in your city or town. Places with early starting frosts may not be able to plant their heart’s desire, or perhaps should start planting earlier in the summer time to prevent frost damage. Below is a general guide to what to plant and when:

July: lima beans, eggplant, okra, southern peas, peppers, and tomatoes.

August (these plants have a 60-80 day maturity cycle): snap beans, pole beans, corn, cucumbers, southern peas, peppers, pumpkin, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, onions, and turnips.

September (these plants mature quickly):  beets, cabbage, carrots, endive, escarole, mustard, onions and radish.

Protecting Plants From Mr. Freeze

Plants can grow successfully in the late summer and early fall.  Yet, when those chilly temps begin to drop, frost damage can wreak havoc on vulnerable plants. Most plant damage can be prevented (see our guide to preventing frost damage), but do keep in mind that hardier plants are better adapted to withstand cooler climates. Knowing the frost date in your area can help prepare your garden, and sticking to plants with cold hardiness can better ensure a successful crop.

These hardy plants can withstand a fair amount of frost and continue to grow relatively unharmed: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, mustard greens, onion, parsley, peas, radish and turnips.  Avoid planting basil, bush beans, and snap peas too late, as these sensitive plants will only disappoint come frost season.

Soil that is too warm can also pose a problem early on. Certain plants are unable or are difficult to germinate in soil over 85 degrees F. In exceptionally warm climates, stay away from planting lettuce, snap peas and spinach until the soil can cool down a bit.

Helpful Tips for Summer Planting

*Pest control can be particularly bewildering in the summer time.  See our guide to treating pest naturally.

*In very warm climates, utilize large plants and trees to provide some shade during peak sunlight hours.

*Do not allow seeds to dry out. Provide at least 1 inch of water, once a week.  This will moisten the soil without overwatering. You may wish to water young seedlings more often.

*Warm, dry soil can form a layer of dry crust around young seedlings, interfering with germination. To prevent this, layer compost, mulch of moist potting soil over the seed row and continue watering to keep the soil moist.

***Friends, what are you planting now for a delicious, fall harvest?

Sources:

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-66.pdf

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/fallgarden.html

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/M1227.html

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Live Easy In the Summer With These Gardening Tips

May 22nd, 2012

Summer time is a good excuse to slow down the gardening for a month or two, and enjoy your garden at your next pool party or barbeque bash.  Your flowers should be blooming idiots by now, while your vegetables and fruit are producing regularly. If you live in the Southwest or a warmer climate, you should have already planted everything last month, while those that have cooler weather can buy some extra time.  However, the summer should be a time for maintenance, and we’d like to share some tips on what you should (and shouldn’t!) be doing this season.

Gardens may require more supplemental watering during the summer months. Therefore, it’s a good time to install the drip irrigation system you’ve been thinking about, especially if you wish not to be hunched over your garden under the beating sun. Drip irrigation is also effective for decreasing the risk of evaporation, erosion and run-off, which happens more frequently in the hot summer months. If you prefer to water manually, water your plants deeply and more frequently (especially your trees and shrubs) if the weekly rainfall hits below 1” a week.

Get to know your soil and how it retains water. Soil tends to crack and dry up quickly in the hot sun, especially if it’s clay soil lacking organic matter. Sandy soil with organic matter retains the most water, and decreases the chance of pesky evaporation.  While watering is important, be careful to not overwater your plants, as this could lead to fungus and disease.

Hold off on planting anything new this time of year. Any new plants should have been planted a few weeks after the last frost, and now is the time to maintain and harvest.  However, if you live in a moderate summer climate, there are some warm-loving plants that could grow nicely in warm soil, and if given plenty of attention and water. In moderate summer climates, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, eggplants, peppers, brussel sprouts and corn all can grow quite well during this time. Thegardenhelper.com can further provide more information on boldly planting this time of year!

Weeding will most likely be the brunt of the maintenance required in the summer time, as weeds thrive in the dry heat and can inhibit a vibrant garden. Aim to weed about 2-3 times a week. Removing weeds quickly and when they are small will make weeding a snap, as large root systems won’t have the opportunity to form. If you receive a good monsoon storm, or some summer rain, you’ll find the task of weeding even easier as the soil softens. Natural weed killers are always recommended, as they will have little to no impact on the environment. Vinegar works well against weeds, but may require a few applications to really do the trick. Boiling water is also effective, just be sure to use caution around surrounding plants, as well as yourself!

Some other general rules for summer gardening include applying mulch and knowing when to prune.  Mulch can do wonders for your garden, as it protects the soil from high temperatures, retains moisture, and prevents water evaporation and runoff.  It can also reduce the rate of weeds, which is even more appreciated when temperatures hit 100+ degrees! Stop by our blog post on mulching here for more helpful tips.

Generally, excessive pruning should be avoided during the summer months. However, removing fading blossoms to promote further growth, or pruning late flowering shrubs and hedges in the early summer months should be fine. When the weather gets even warmer, it’s best to avoid pruning whenever possible, as it can really damage a plant fast (about as fast as those weeds grew).

Bonus! We found a terrific guide for month-by-month tips on maintaining lawns, ornamentals and citrus trees from June – August.

What summer maintenance do you practice in your own garden?  

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Tips and Tricks to Beat the August Heat!

August 14th, 2011

 

During the dog days of summer, when it’s oppressively hot, you and your plants need some TLC. It only takes a few hours for the sun’s rays to damage your plants beyond repair. Here are some quick and easy tips and tricks to help make what’s left of summer gardening more beneficial for your plants and more bearable for yourself.

  • Watering. Depending on what region you live in, you may be experiencing drought. If so, and if you are dealing with water restrictions, you will need to be thoughtful with the day(s) and time(s) you water. If you can, water your plants deeply and early in the morning. If you have drip irrigation, great! If not, you may want to invest in soaker hoses. And if you live in an area where it may be raining every now and then, a rain barrel is a great way to water your vegetables and reduce your water bills.
  • Feeding your plants. Because many vegetables begin to fruit in hot weather it’s important that you continue to provide them with nutrients. One easy way to do this is by side-dressing your plants with compost.
  • Taking note of your plants. When the heat is on, plants will show signs of distress. Look for browning and/or wilted leaves and little to no flowering. You may be able to save your plants for successful harvesting. Make sure to mulch 3 to 4 inches to help conserve water, and when watering, give your plants a good, deep soak. Mulching also cools the soil temperature by shielding it from direct sunlight.
  • Shade. If your plants are showing signs of excessive heat stress, you should provide them with shade during the hottest part of the day, generally between 11am and 3pm. You can purchase shading material at your local garden center or you can construct a shade barrier using old bed sheets and poles.
  • You. Summer’s heat can be brutal and dangerous so it’s important that you protect yourself when you’re tending to your garden during the day. Using sun block and wearing a wide brimmed hat, loose fitting pants and a light-colored long-sleeved shirt or tee shirt will help reduce skin damage due to the sun’s powerful rays. And make sure to have plenty of water with you if you’ll be working in the garden for any length of time. If you can, pull weeds and clean the garden in the evening.

August is one of the cruelest months for plants, but with care and caution you can continue to enjoy bountiful summer harvests.

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