What a week it’s been in the North Bay! I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been busy just keeping my field and greenhouse watered down. I’m not even thinking about the sea of weeds that’s starting to grow after all our crazy spring rains followed by this stretch of 90 -100 degree days. One thing at a time!
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the task of keeping the garden happy in heat waves. But there are some key strategies that I employ to help my crops stay happy and healthy.
The first line of defense is, of course, water. It might be time to rethink your watering scheme if you haven’t yet figured it out for the season. Depending on the size of your garden, a simple garden hose and a watering can 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 in-line emitters, micro-sprinklers or other irrigation techniques can decrease maintenance time and increase water efficiency.
When a heat wave is approaching, I aim to get my plants nice and irrigated before the temperatures start to climb. This is not the time to slack. For greenhouse crops, I plan to devote more time to frequent, shallow waterings during the day. I even more certain plants in the deep shade if needed.
Next comes mulch. There’s not much you can do last minute in the way of mulch, but starting the practice of mulching your garden deeply will do wonders for water retention. Whether you use cardboard covered in organic material, wood chips, or weed-free straw, just make sure you do it early and deep.
Finally, I always try to conserve my energy and that of my plants during unseasonable heat. I take care of my gardening tasks early in the day, and get out of the sun. I do the same for my plants. There’s no need to put them through extra stress, so best to hold off on any planting or other taxing activities. Cool them down, and take a break.