Gardening in a Heat Wave
by Steve Glor on Jul 15, 2021
Don’t let your plants wither when the weather heats up. Heat waves are here again, as climate change makes them a more frequent, intense occurrence in the United States. The good news is, hot weather doesn’t have to spell doom for your plants. Instead, there are several things you can do to ensure your garden survives the heat.
Water, Water, Water
It might seem obvious but watering is the most important thing you can do to help your plants survive a heat wave. If you know at least a day ahead of time that temperatures are expected to rise, then make sure to give your plants a deep soak the night before. This way, they can take in plenty of moisture before it gets too hot.
During a heat wave, try to water early in the morning to prevent heat scalding. When you do, make sure to water under the plants, not on the leaves. Hand watering is one of the best ways to be sure water gets right where it needs to be: at the root of your plants. For trees and bushes, Yard Butler’s deep root irrigator will help you get water deep into the soil so they can stand strong despite the high temperatures. It also works great for deep watering raised beds.
Keep a closer eye than usual on your plants throughout the heatwave. Watch for signs of drooping or wilting, and adjust your watering to give those plants additional attention. Hanging baskets and potted plants will also need to be watered more frequently, as they tend to retain less moisture in their shallow soils.
One of the best things about container gardens is that you can move your plants when necessary. During a heat wave you can, and should, move more delicate plants to a shadier spot to protect them from the heat of the day. You might even consider moving some of them indoors part of the day or for the duration of the heat wave. This is especially true for young plants like seedlings and starts.
Plants that can’t be moved (like raised beds and shrubs) can also be shaded. Shade cloth is sold with varying levels of protection so you can choose how much light to let through. You will likely need to construct a simple frame to keep the cloth from touching the plants and disrupting air circulation. Generally, though, a temporary drape is all you will need to shade from direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day.
In a pinch? Move your patio umbrella to shade your sensitive plants. Then, make a note for next year to plant transplants in the shade of more mature plants for a layered, heat resistant garden.
Use heat and drought resistant plants in your garden wherever possible. Heat wave or not, this is one of the best ways to use less water in your garden.
Well amended soil retains more moisture, so always be sure to prepare your soil before planting at the beginning of the season. Running soaker hoses throughout your garden is also a great way to get water right where it needs to be and avoid runoff. You can bury the hose under a layer of mulch for even more moisture retention.
Speaking of mulch, lighter colored mulch reflects more sunlight, resulting in cooler soil beneath the surface. Grass clippings work well in this regard, just remember that fresh cut grass will add nitrogen back into your soil, so adjust your fertilizing accordingly.
For planting, choose lighter colored, sealed pots, which will better reflect light and retain moisture.
Don’t stress your plants, that is. During a heat wave, avoid any activities from which your plants would need to recover. This means no pruning, fertilizing, or transplanting until the heat passes and temperatures return to normal.
You shouldn’t mow your lawn during the heat wave either (a minimum of three inches is the ideal length for grass in the summertime). Taller grass provides more shade and retains water better to allow the roots to thrive.
Finally, be sure to pay attention to any local regulations regarding water usage in your area. Don’t get penalized for being unaware. Some drought-stricken areas have restrictions on what days and even times you are allowed to water.Don’t let leaks waste your water, either. Upgrade your leaky hose reel with one of Yard Butler’s best-selling garden hose reels.
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