Beat The Heat This Summer In Your Garden!


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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  1. Some additional tips on watering:

    1) Research at Michigan State University has shown that if you program your irrigation system to do a deep watering in the morning and also do a 15 minute short burst around 2:00 PM you will get the best results. The 2 PM burst assists the plant with evaporative cooling just before the hottest part of the day. This works for both turf and garden plants.

    2) Do not water plants at night. This creates stress on the plants by filling the air pores in the soil with water. Plants also “breathe” through their roots. With no light present, water uptake is dramatically reduced because the plant is not conducting photosynthesis. Understanding the basic equation of: Carbon Dioxide + Water will be taken in by the plant in the presence of light and produce Glucose and release Oxygen. However the plant conducts Respiration 24 hours a day which is the reverse of photosynthesis…the output is Carbon Dioxide and Water as a waste product. A saturated warm soil at night creates ideal conditions for anaerobic bacterial and fungal growth. By following these basic cultural practices, you will reduce soil borne diseases in your garden and lawn. This is one of the biggest problems golf courses have because they water at night so the course can be played during the day. As a result they have to control soil borne diseases with toxic pesticides.

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