After spending the winter dreaming of warm weather, it's easy to forget just how hot the summer can get. While the internet is full of tips for people looking to beat the heat, it's important for gardeners to remember that people aren’t the only ones that struggle when temperatures soar. Plants are also affected by hot temperatures. That’s why we’ve rounded up some tips to help your garden beat the summer heat.
Water at the Right Time
If you want to make the most of watering, avoid the middle of the day. Instead, try to water your garden in the early morning or evening. Watering during the middle of the day will increase the chance of your water being lost to evaporation. You could also risk burning your plants if you use overhead watering. Water droplets on leaves can act as a magnifying glass, focusing the sun's rays and burning a portion of the leaves.
Choose the Right Plants
If you need to fill spaces where a plant has died, or where you’ve already harvested an early season crop like lettuce, it’s important to choose heat tolerant plants and water them regularly. For vegetables, try quick-growing, heat-tolerant plants like hot peppers, green beans, and summer squash. Check out our post, Some Like it Hot! Best Vegetables to Grow in Heat, for more ideas.
A great way to help nearly any plant thrive in hot temperatures is to mulch around the base of the plant (don’t let the mulch touch the plant stem.) In a vegetable patch, grass clippings, straw, or even leaves will work. For flower beds, wood or bark mulches look nice and work well. Mulch insulates the soil, keeping it cool and moist around the plant’s roots even as temperatures rise. As a bonus, mulch helps prevent weeds.
Try Companion Planting
Another great way to keep soil temperatures cool is to practice companion planting. Companion planting is when you plant two plants that will benefit each other together. To shade the soil beneath taller plants like corn, sunflowers, or trellised pole beans, you can grow vining plants like cucumbers, winter squash, or sweet potatoes. Alternatively, you can use a trellis of pole beans or cucumbers, or a hedge of okra, to provide partial shade to a crop that prefers cooler temperatures, such as new cabbage seedlings that might be sprouting.
Install Shade Cloth
When planting new plants, provide a bit of shade, which will allow them to establish. Row covers and shade cloth (even an umbrella will work in a pinch) placed over newly-planted annuals and shrubs for a few days will help plants avoid transplant shock.
Watch for Fungal Diseases
When the weather gets hot and humid, some plants become more susceptible to fungal diseases like verticillium wilt, which affects tomatoes, or downy mildew, which harms cucumbers. Identify the disease and either remove affected plants or find the appropriate treatment and apply according to package instructions. Prevention is often the best solution. Keep track of which plants you’re experiencing problems with. Next season, try implementing crop rotation, plant disease-resistant varieties, and/or try to optimize airflow. For plants like tomatoes, you can prune lower leaves and “suckers” to introduce more airflow, and cucumbers can be trellised.
This summer, when the temperatures climb, ensure your garden is ready. Maintain a productive and beautiful garden this season with these simple tips to help your plants beat the heat. For more tips and tricks to keep your garden growing this summer, visit one of our store locations and speak with an expert, we’re here to help!