Beat the Heat

The Dog Days of Summer are upon us, and for many gardeners this means that we will be extra busy.  Attempting to nurse your landscape through a heat wave may sometimes seem like a futile task.  As many lawns turn a crispy brown and flowers start to wither under the scorching heat, there are a few steps that can be taken to prevent cooking your plants.


Water is Key
     Every gardener knows that watering plants properly is an art form, and any bad habits will definitely show up during hot weather.  When it comes to watering beds, I know that you may be tempted to water lightly each night with a watering can instead of dragging out the hose to soak the beds down.  When lightly watered, only the top layer of the bed becomes moist.  This leads to a shallow root system just beneath the surface.  This can spell trouble when it gets toasty outside.  It is much better to water thoroughly a few times a week.  This forces roots to grow deep where they can tap into moisture even on the hottest days.
     Containers are a different story.  To keep them looking their best they need to be watered every day (especially if they are in direct sunlight).  The best way to check smaller planters and hanging baskets is to simply lift them to judge their weight.

Know When to Water
     There has always been a bit of a debate over the best time of the day to water, with gardeners divided into two camps.  There are those that maintain that morning is the perfect time for watering and those that emphasize evening as the absolute best time.  However, no matter what your thoughts are on the optimal irrigation hour, everyone agrees that the downright worst time of the day to water is in the afternoon.
     There is actually some very important evidence in support of each of the ideas.  Morning waterers will tell you that if you water you plants at night, they will stay wet longer which encourages fungal growth.  Evening waterers will say that if you water in the morning, most of the moisture will evaporate before it has a chance to soak into the soil.  Both groups will tell you that if you water in the midday’s sun, the water droplets will focus the sunlight and scorch the leaves like a child roasting an anthill with a magnifying glass.
     That said, morning and evening are the best times to water.  If you do decide to water in the evening, just make sure that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall.  This will limit the chance for fungal growth and give you the best of both worlds.

Give Your Plants a Haircut
     Some plants can benefit greatly in hot weather by being trimmed back.  Trimming allows the root system to easily support the plant above.  Think of it this way, the root system of the plant grows to supply the foliage and flowers, but if you trim back the plant there is now more root system in relation to the foliage.
    Along the same lines, deadheading is also an important task that will help your plant flourish.  In many cases, a withering bloom is a sign that a fruit or seed pod is on the way.  Pinching dead blooms also removes the seeds that the plant would continue to invest energy instead of continuing to bloom.

In closing, these are just a few tips to helps beat the heat this summer.  On hot summer days also remember to protect yourself too.  Drink plenty of fluids, take frequent breaks, and enjoy some air conditioning whenever possible.