Saving Your Garden in a Heat Wave
“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?”
– Steven Wright
In Manitoba, we know what the cold weather feels like, so when summer finally hits, the last thing we want to do is complain about the weather. When our luxurious warm weather is interrupted with a heat wave, though, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.
In a heat wave like this one, everything around us feels like it is moving in slow motion – the days are long, and everything feels like it’s moving impossibly slow. It’s downright
uncomfortable to go outside, and even more difficult to get anything done.
As tough as the heat can be on us, our plants are feeling it even more. While we have the escape of the indoors and even air conditioning, our plants are rooted to the spot, taking the worst of it. As much as we want to be relaxing, sipping our lemonade in the shade, we can’t forget to give them some of our attention, too. Here are some tips to keep them from quitting on us when the weather gets hot:
Keeping It Relaxed
Heat stress is an efficient killer in the garden, but there’s tons you can do to help your plants escape it. Thankfully, preventing heat stress requires less work and stress from you, too.
Skip mowing the lawn. The heat doesn’t
just target your garden, but your grass, too! Keeping the grass on the longer side will give the ground some extra shade to keep roots cool. The longer grass will also help your lawn to retain moisture and avoid drying out. It’s also a great excuse to save yourself the work under the hot sun, too – what’s best for your yard is best for you, in this case!
Avoid any trimming. Step away from the clippers! A trim to your plants will give them the signal to start growing. This is the last thing you need in a heat wave. Your plants should be using their energy to stay healthy, not struggling with new growth. As much as you don’t want to be labouring on these hot afternoons, your plants don’t, either. Give everyone a break and save the trimming until the temperatures have cooled a little.
Keep It Cool
We’re all looking for ways to cool down this summer, from a chilled glass of lemonade to a dip in the lake. Our plants want to keep the temperature down at a manageable level too, but will need our help to do it.
Mulch – You’ve heard it over and over how
mulching will help to regulate soil temperatures in your garden, and this is exactly the circumstances that calls for it! If you had to walk around wearing a heavy dark shirt during a heat wave, you’d be pretty hot and upset. The dark colour absorbs heat and would be your last choice to stay cool. Soil works the same way. As such a dark color, it soaks up the sun and can hold enough heat to cook your plant’s roots. Use a lighter coloured, plant-based mulch, like straw or cedar, to protect your plants with their cooling effect.
Staying Hydrated in the Garden
This is one of the most obvious ways to keep your garden healthy in the heat, but is so important it’s worth talking about a bit more anyways. When the mercury rises a cool glass of water sounds more and more appealing. We’re sweating more to try and stay cool, so we need to replenish our water
more. Soil has the same problem with water evaporating in the heat, and will need some extra care to stay hydrated.
Get to know your garden. Not every plant or root system is created equal, and some of your plants will need more help in this heat than others. Plants native to this area and zone will have an easier time tapping into water reserves with their deep root systems than the tropical annuals that keep their roots close to the surface. Keep them from struggling with extra water and care to help manage the heat.
Know when to water. You don’t want to be outside watering all the time, so choosing when to water can help you make the most of your time and effort. Watering at the hottest point of the day will have half your water evaporating before it can even get to the roots. Water when the temperatures are cooler and the sun is less intense. Morning is the best time for your plants to take advantage of it before the afternoon heat. You can water in the evening too, but if the nights start to cool off, you might be adding mildew to your garden problems.
Soak, don’t sprinkle. In extreme heat, little water droplets will evaporate before they can do much good for your garden. If you still prefer the convenience of sprinklers, consider using a soaker hose in heat waves. They keep the water close to the ground where it’s needed, saving you water, time, effort, and money, all while giving your plants the hydration boost they desperately need.
When summer heat strikes, you don’t want to leave your poor garden and plants out to dry. Help them stay cool and hydrated in the heat with good garden habits so they can come out the other side of the heat looking their best, ready to shine for the rest of the summer. Remember to beat the heat and stay cool, in and out of the garden while the high temperatures last!