Not unlike people, plants get uncomfortable, sweaty, and dehydrated during hot days. Though some crops (such as tomatoes, melons, corn, squash, aster, and daylilies) can thrive in 90 degree temperatures as long as they have enough water, other plants (spinach, cilantro, broccoli, daffodils, tulips, pansies) prefer cool weather, and thus require extra care during the summer months. Some simple planning and preventative techniques can keep your garden from suffering as temperatures continue to rise.
First, be aware of the signs of heat stress in plants. In extreme cold weather, plants with poor cold-tolerance will simply die. In extreme heat, many plants will exhibit symptoms that hint at discomfort or unhealthiness. Be on the lookout for plants with unusually pale leaves, plants that have stopped blooming suddenly, and plants with pest infestations. Pests prey on already vulnerable plants. If you see these symptoms in your garden, consider excessive heat exposure as a possible cause and take action!
Plants need protection from both intense heat and intense sunlight. Shade netting easily tackles both these threats. When suspended several inches above your garden, the netting will keep the soil and plants below up to ten degrees cooler; it will also protect the tender leaves of plants from getting scorched by direct sunlight.
A sun screen directing shade at the bases of plants is equally as effective, and can work very well on tall crops and flowers. Sun screens can be purchased or made out of scrap material, such as old wood or window screens.
Regular mulching and deep watering of soil can also help keep plants cool. The hotter it gets, the more hydration your plants need. Be sure to research their water tolerance levels so as not to over or under water. Potted plants are especially sensitive to the heat, so take extra care when watering these. Water directly at the roots to ensure the entire root ball is wetted. And, remember, frequent watering can leach nutrients out of your soil, so supplement watering with applications of a slow release fertilizer.
Removing weeds is a general rule of thumb, but, in the summer, weeds are especially dangerous because they compete with your crops for water and soil nutrients. Cut them down quickly and frequently to ensure that your plants don’t get choked out by unwelcome garden dwellers.
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