Once upon a time, I remember praying that the sun would come out again. Now I’m frowning at the sun for being my mortal enemy. And my vegetable plants are talking about staging a revolt against Mother Nature.
Ask any gardener right now in the South and they will tell you the biggest threat they are fighting in their gardens right now is the heat. With record temps becoming almost the norm in our area, our plants are withering before our eyes. But there are some things you can do to keep your garden going through this heat wave and a few tips you can follow to help you get through the these high temps too.
Step One: Plan to garden in the morning and in the evening. Not only is this better for your plants, it’s better for you. It’s cooler outside during those hours of the day. Stepping out to garden in the middle of the day with temps above 100 just isn’t a good idea.
Step Two: Mulch. Mulching adds a layer of protection to your plants. It keeps them cooler during the day and helps to trap moisture in the ground instead of evaporating into an oblivion.
Step Three: Water the base of your plants not the top or the leaves. The water droplets left behind from watering can heat up so much during the course of the day they can actually burn your plants and cause significant damage. A plant pulls its moisture from the roots anyway, so watering the bottom is better for your plants.
Step Four: Water deeply. A little splash of water in this kind of weather just isn’t going to cut it. Soak the ground. I know we always say don’t send your plants swimming, but the ground is drier right now and will require more water than normal. Just make sure your garden area has adequate drainage.
Step Five: Water in triplicate for containers. Containers dry out much quicker than plants planted in the ground. And when you do water them, excess water runs out through the drainage holes before the super dry soil has time to soak up enough water to keep the plant alive. So water your container 3 times. Again, you need to soak the container. Give it a few minutes for the excess water to drain out and soak it again. Repeat the process at least 3 times to make sure the soil has soaked up plenty of water. To check if your container plant has enough water, use Ron’s Second Knuckle Method. Stick your finger into the dirt of the container all the way down to your second knuckle. If your finger is dry and free of dirt when you pull your finger back out, it doesn’t have enough water.
Step Six: Break up the soil around your plant using a small tiller or a hand rake or cultivator. This will allow the water to penetrate the ground quicker and get more water to the roots of your plant.
Step Seven: Throw on a little more soil. The more you water, the more the soil tends to move around and can expose the roots of your plants. So toss in a little more soil around the base of your plants to keep the roots cool and protected.
Step Eight: Water Twice. Plan on watering your plants in the morning and at night. I, personally, have been watering my vegetable garden in the morning before work and at night just after dinner. And so far, even the plants in direct sunlight have been doing great and all the plants are still producing plenty of veggies for the whole family.
Step Nine: Stay safe. Your garden isn’t the only thing that can struggle in the heat. Heat Stress can be very serious if not treated. Drink lots of fluids. Avoid sodas, teas, and coffee as the caffeine can actually cause you to dehydrate. Wear a wide brim hat and sunscreen. And rest when you need to. Remember if you quit sweating, you’re dehydrated. Signs of heat stress include nausea, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, confusion, and extreme thirst. If you feel any of the symptoms of heat stress, stop what you are doing and go to a cool place. Call for help and drink lots of fluids until help arrives.
Step Ten: Do a rain dance. A really fancy rain dance, with costumes and make-up. I’m not sure if it will actually work, but we’d love to see some videos of your best rain dance. And who knows, your rendition of the rain dance could be just the trick to save us all from this heat wave.