It’s summertime and wherever you are in the United States you will probably be experiencing at least some days of sizzling heat. If you’re lucky, you live in a region of the country that suffers hot conditions only periodically. If you aren’t’ lucky, then the severe heat remains for the entire summer.
A blazing hot sun can make tending your garden a debilitating experience for you and your plants.
(Courtesy: Rolf Marstrander at flickr.com)
Just like us humans, unless they are heat tolerate, plants don’t like hot weather. If you’re gardening during sizzling hot conditions, there are things you can do to keep your plants happy.
Preventing Your Plants From Suffering Heat Stress
Shading your plants from the sun and keeping them moist are two ways to keep them from suffering heat stress. Keep the soil evenly moist. Use soakers or drip irrigation hoses and cover the soil with thick mulch.
For many vegetables, this won’t be enough. They still may be affected by the heat even with the precautions of a moist and mulch covered soil. Temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit may keep some veggies and flowers from blooming. Moreover, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant may have difficulty completing the pollination process when temperatures are higher than 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can learn a lesson from commercial growers who use overhead sprinklers to cool plants down in hot conditions. When a summer day reaches its most severe temperatures in the late afternoon may be the ideal time to provide the cool mist.
You can also use shading devices. In some situations, they are more practical and they are water efficient. Setting them up is also must less time consuming. A short run of snow fencing or pre-assembled section of a picket fence along the south or west side of a row of veggies could prove ideal.
Shade covers made of lightweight cloth like old sheets are a good alternative. Be sure that the cloth is somehow held up several inches above the plants to allow air to get through and assure that there is no retaining heat.
If you intend to use a cloth-type shade covering over your plants, then tie or staple the corners of the cloth to wood stakes. Shade cloth is available at your local garden store. You can also obtain 6-feet by 12-feet pieces of cloth that blocks out 50 percent of the sunlight. Old window screens and narrow panels of wood lattice are good alternatives. If the plant you want to screen is too tall for a cover, then place the screen next to them so that the base is shielded from the afternoon sun.
Veggies like lettuce and other leafy greens don’t do well in 90-degree heat. However, if you use controlled shade, they will thrive despite the heat.
A study at Kansas State University’s Research and Extension Center performed in 2001 discovered that high tunnels that include 40 percent shade cloth doubled the survival rate of transplanted lettuce seedlings.
Install The Proper Plants For Your Region
If you experience severe heat through an entire summer, then it is suggested that you select plants that are heat tolerate.
Cool-weather crops including broccoli, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, radishes, kale Swiss chard, cauliflower, lettuce and other salad greens, spinach, and peas do not tolerate severe heat. Cool-weather crops stop growing, go to seed, or die when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat Tolerate Plants
Plants that thrive in hot weather include:
• Butterfly Weed
• Purple Coneflower
• Egyptian Star Cluster
• Pampas Grass
• Firecracker Penstemon
• Shasta Daisy
Keeping Yourself Cool
As you do all you can to make sure your plants are comfortable in severe heat conditions, don’t forget about you. Tending a garden in sizzling heat can lead to a lot of unpleasant things including heat stroke. It can also be plain debilitating.
To avoid problems due to the heat, it’s suggested that you tend your garden in the morning or late evening when conditions are cooler. If you have to work in direct sunlight, wear a wide-brimmed hat as well as a wet loosely tied bandana on your neck.
A trick you may want to consider is to dampen a clean dish or hand towel, shape it into a rounded collar on a cookie sheet, and place it in the freezer. When you’re ready to putter in the garden, take the towel out of the freezer and drape it around your neck. It should keep you cool for more than an hour.
(Sources: motherearthnews.com, bobvila.com, and gardeners.com)