Most of the country is experiencing a major heat wave this week– both people and plants are in a perpetual state of wilt, as temperatures hover around the high nineties with some heat indexes reaching into the low hundreds. With temperature and humidity levels so high, it’s crucial to take some extra steps to protect the garden. Here are some tips:
1. Mulch– if you haven’t already, it’s time to put a good mulch around your plants. Mulches help plants retain moisture, as well as acting as a barrier to weeds. Straw, leaves and newspaper all make good mulches.
2. Water– water is essential, but timing is everything. If you water in the heat of the day, the water will evaporate before it can be of any benefit to your plants. Early morning and evening are the best times to water, and during a heat wave the earlier or later the better– we’re talking before six in the morning and after sunset in the evening, so at least after nine.
3. Provide Shade– when the sun and the heat are so relentless, your plants will welcome a break from it. You can contruct very simple shade canopies from fabric and bamboo poles. Avoid a tunnel setup though; you don’t want to create more of a “greenhouse effect” of focusing heat onto your plants.
4. Avoid garden work in the heat of the day– it’s a personal theory, but I think plants shouldn’t be messed with during times of duress (which definitely includes a heat wave) because they need all their energy just remaining hydrated and healthy, and hopefully flowering and producing fruit. So avoid weeding, planting, pollinating, harvesting or any other garden activities during the hottest part of the day. And what’s good for the garden is good for the gardener– you’ll minimize your chances for discomfort at the best and heat stroke or other related maladies at the worst if you do your gardening in the cooler early morning or evening hours. And don’t forget the hat and water bottle!