Beat the Heat in the Summer Garden!

We’ve experienced some very warm weather this last week, and it looks like there is going to be more of it next week!  Some of your plants may be showing signs of heat stress. Leaves may wilt. Vegetables like lettuce and spinach may bolt (flower prematurely) or in the case of plants you want to blossom, like peppers or watermelon, they may drop blossoms, reducing yield. Here are a few tips to help your garden withstand the hottest part of the summer.

Watch Your Plants
Plants will often tell you when they are needing water. Lawns will turn a bluish green and show footprints that don’t rebound. Bean leaves will turn a darker green and begin to wilt. Most plants will perform better if you don’t allow them to wilt before watering, so check your garden every day and observe their needs.

Water When Necessary
It’s true that you need to water more often during hot weather, but first check the soil. The surface may look dry even though there is plenty of moisture in the root zone. Over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering, so don’t over do it. Slow, deep watering will ensure that water soaks down to the roots. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems work well.  If using a hose that has been laying in the sun, be sure to let it run for a minute or two, until cool water comes out.

Mulch to Keep
Things Cool!
A couple of inches of organic mulch like compost, grass clippings, or bark mulch will help reduce moisture loss as well as cool the soil temperature. A side benefit is that it prevents most weeds from germinating, too!

Cover cool-weather veggies like lettuce and spinach with shade cloth. It won’t totally prevent bolting, but it might delay it a bit.  Also, raise your lawn mower blade up so that you have 3 inches of grass left standing after you mow.  This will provide shade for the roots of your lawn keeping them cool and much happier (which means a greener lawn).

Don’t Spray Chemicals
During Heat
Avoid spraying garden chemicals when temperatures are above 85 degrees. Weed killers can volatilize (evaporate and become air borne) and drift onto desirable plants. Insecticides can burn leaves of plants when temps are above 85. Spray early in the morning when temps are cooler and the air is still, or wait.

Summer is just getting started! With a little extra attention and a little extra know-how, your garden can come through this summer’s heat waves with flying colors, and keep right on blooming!

Water Wise Lawn Watering

About 3%  of residential water use goes to outdoor watering, including lawns. By effectively using water and reducing wasteful practices such as improper watering you will create deep, vigorous root systems and help the lawn be more resistant to drought conditions. The following techniques are beneficial for healthy turf.

Aeration – Creating holes or slits so that air and water can penetrate beneath the surface will improve drainage and stimulate new roots that provide the lawn more resistance to drought for the summer ahead. Aeration can be done in the spring or fall, but it is best done when soil conditions are moist. This ensures that the aerator will pull deeper plugs. The plugs should be 3 to 4 inches deep for best results.

Mowing – It is best to mow often, but not too close. Cutting the lawn to the recommended height is healthier during drought conditions. Bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass should be mowed at a height of 3 inches. Longer grass has more leaf surface to absorb greater amounts of sunlight, encouraging thicker turf with a deeper root system.

Watering – Many questions arise concerning watering. What time of day is best?  How often should you water? How much water is needed? Here are some guidelines for watering your lawn. It is best to water when the temperature is cooler, so that less water is lost to evaporation. Evening and morning hours are the best time. Allowing the lawn to dry down between watering cycles allows air to enter the soil and stimulates deeper root development. Watering too frequently or flooding the turf is not healthy for the lawn and is a waste of water. The soil should be soaked to a depth of 4 inches at each watering cycle. The best way to achieve this is to put down about a ½ inch of water, move the sprinkler to another area and then move it back and apply another ½ inch of water. This technique gives the water a chance to soak in without wasting water to run off. It is simple to measure the amount of water by placing shallow containers or a rain gauge in the spray area

Lawn grasses are rarely killed by droughts. Proper watering practices will help conserve water and save money, while maintaining an attractive and healthy lawn.