Saving Your Garden in a Heat Wave
“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?”
““ Steven Wright
In a heat wave like this one, everything seems to move into slow motion. The days feel unbearably long and every move we make is suspended in time as it slowly cuts through air that feels as thick as jello. It can honestly feel impossible to go outside. But as much as we’re suffering in our slightly chilled indoor oasis, our plants are stuck facing the worst of it outdoors. Here’s how to keep them from tapping out in the heat:
Keep Them Relaxed:
Heat stress is a swift and silent killer in the garden, so don’t let your plants fall victim to it. Thankfully, preventing heat stress actually requires less work, not more.
Don’t Mow the Lawn. By keeping the grass longer, you’ll be offering more shade for the ground to help keep roots cool for all your plants. With more surface area to retain moisture, you’ll also keep your grass from drying out.
Don’t Do Any Trimming. That’s right- put the clippers away. Trimming and pruning gives plants the signal to grow, forcing them to expend their energy on sprouting new growths. As much as you don’t want to be working out on a hot day like this one, your plants don’t, either. Give them a break from growing and let them relax, saving their energy for a better time.
Keep Them Cool:
When the heat is this intense, nothing feels better than an ice cold glass of lemonade or a dip in the pool. Naturally, we want to cool down. It shouldn’t be any surprise at all, then, that plants do, too.
Mulch. That’s right, you’ve heard it over and over “mulch will regulate temperatures.”
Well, it’s not an exaggeration! Think of it this way: you love that black t-shirt, but when the sun’s beating down on you, it’s the last thing you’d pick to wear. Why? Because dark colours absorb heat. Dirt just happens to be pretty dark and as it absorbs the heat, your roots start cooking. Choose plant-based mulches, like straw or cedar for most cooling effect in the heat.
Keep Them Hydrated:
This one you may have guessed on your own. When the mercury rises, we know that we sweat out water like crazy, so we have to replenish it frequently. Similarly, the soil has a hard time holding onto the water as it’s evaporated in the heat.
Know Who Needs it Most. Not all roots are created equal, and some will need more water than others in the heat. Plants that are native to the area tend to set their roots deeper in the soil. Water that is deeper in the soil won’t evaporate nearly as fast close to the surface, so deeper roots tend to fare better in the heat. Tender annuals and tropical plants tend to keep their roots closer to the surface and face the most risk, needing more frequent watering.
Know When to Water. If you water in the hottest temperatures of the afternoon sun, half the water you’re pouring is evaporating before it even gets to the roots. The best time to do it is early morning before the heat gets intense. This will allow the water to soak in and give the roots a chance to get a good drink before the heat is at its peak. You can also try watering in the evening, but if the nights are cooling off, you may wake up to some mildew.
Soak, Don’t Sprinkle. In the heat, the little droplets of water arcing through the air are just spending more time risking evaporation. You end up wasting more than is actually benefiting you. If “flip a switch” watering is more your style, dig out some pocket change and invest in a soaker hose. This will keep the water as close to the ground as possible, minimizing the risk of evaporation before it gets where it’s needed.
When the heat comes, don’t leave your poor plants out to dry – literally. By keeping them calm, cool, and collected with healthy heatwave habits, you’ll be setting them up for success, even in the harshest of weather.