It’s mid summer and the heat is on! 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:
1. Watch- 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.
2. Water- 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 insure 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.
3. Mulch- A couple of inches of organic mulch like compost, grass clippings, or bark mulch will help reduce moisture loss and cool the soil temperature. A side benefit is that it prevents most weeds from germinating, too.
4. Shade- Cover cool weather veggies like lettuce and spinach with shade cloth. It won’t totally prevent bolting, but it could 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).
5. 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