It’s been a hot summer! Yesterday I tried to get some actual work done in my field, but each and every plant was looking so thirsty that I spent the whole day watering. It’s tough to stay on top of it all! While summer plants like tomatoes and zinnias really should be thriving in the heat, they do require some extra attention when temperatures continue to soar. Here are some tips for keeping the garden healthy during these heat waves.
Anticipate Increased Water Needs
Watch your plants carefully and learn to anticipate their needs. Learn to water them before they truly need it. If your plants display the classic droopy leaves that are telltale of wilt – then you’ve waited too long. Even though they may bounce back, it’s not worth the damage you’ve already put them through, bless their little plant hearts.
If trying to keep lettuce and other tender greens alive through the summer, let ‘em have it! Lettuce is tricky in the heat, even more so in dry heat. Their shallow roots need frequent watering – daily in most cases – but the leaves will also benefit from keeping fairly moist and cool. Your best bet, if faced with a particularly sunny and hot yard, is to employ some sort of overhead watering system, which leads me to my next tip.
Install Some Serious Irrigation
The options for small-scale garden irrigation are endless. Depending on the size of your garden, a simple garden hose and watering may be enough. Just remember– you’re trying to get water to the plants’ roots and the surrounding soil that is a bit deeper than the depth of roots. I opt for early morning watering, as some plants don’t like to be wet in the chilly evening hours. You can immediately reduce loss to run-off and evaporation by doing away with nonspecific sprinklers and other overhead systems. As your garden gets bigger and the days hotter, it’s probably smart to upgrade your irrigation system to something you can brag about at your local supply or garden store: Soaker hoses, t-tape, drip with inline emitters, micro-sprinklers or other irrigation techniques can decrease maintenance time and increase water efficiency. Whatever you choose, plan your garden so that plants with similar water needs are close to one another.
For watering leafy crops to keep them cool, try a hose with a mist setting or, more practically, micro emitters that are set to go off once or twice in the heat of the day for just a minute or two. The amount of water used is actually quite minimal, and if set at a height just taller than your lettuce heads not much will be lost to the air. What the misting sprinklers are really doing is cooling the micro climate around your sensitive lettuce leaves, keeping them happy and sweet (not bitter!). You can either run these for longer in the evening to give the roots the drink they need or use them in combination with a drip system.
Mulch For Success
The goal with your plants is to encourage deep roots with plentiful water and retain moisture by any means possible. Covering the soil surface with a 3-4″deep layer of mulch will do the trick (like GRAB N’ GROW ORGANIC COMPOST). This will do wonders to hold moisture in your soil, not to mention it will help with weed control in your garden.
So watch, water, mulch, and water again. Here’s to cooler times!