As the weather warms up, many gardeners look forward to spending more time outdoors. However, if you live in a hot summer climate, you may be worried about your garden. While it can be tempting to become idle and relax on your patio in the shade, it is important to prepare ahead of time so that your plants will be able to tolerate scorching heat. Managing plants during the summer can be a difficult task due to extreme weather conditions and heat stress, which can exacerbate weed growth, wither plants, and stunt crop growth. However, with proper planning, you can avoid those detrimental effects and help keep your garden productive during the hot summer season.
Choose appropriate containers for planting
Plants in small pots and containers tend to dry out faster and require constant watering. It is recommended that you store them away for future use or relocate them inside. When choosing planters, look for materials like terracotta, ceramic, or concrete, which will warm up slower than plastic. Light colored planters and containers are preferred, as they reflect light instead of absorbing heat like dark-colored ones will.
Vego Garden has a collection of metal raised garden beds made from galvanized steel that is well suited to withstand extreme weather conditions. It is a common misconception that the metal in raised beds will cause them to overheat; while the soil may be slightly higher than the surrounding area, it is not enough to have a negative impact on your plants. Research shows that soil in galvanized steel stays at an optimal and more even temperature when compared with wooden, concrete, and dark plastic beds, which soak up summer sun during the day and stay hot into the night. One benefit of using raised beds is that when temperatures begin to drop, the raised beds will insulate your plants and keep the soil temperature more consistent.
Add a layer of mulch
Although many gardeners do not think much of it, mulch is crucial in keeping soil temperatures cool. In addition, it helps retain moisture, suppresses weeds, and adds organic matter to the soil. Root crops such as potatoes benefit from cool soil conditions, which makes a deep layer of mulch essential. Otherwise, if you grow fruits, they can crack and dry out. Since weeding can seem like a burdensome chore in the hot weather, add a surface layer of mulch at least 3 – 4 inches deep to circumvent it. Common materials for mulch include compost, grass clippings, straw, hay, or old leaves, which can be combined with newspaper or cardboard.
Water at the right times
You might think that consistent watering is enough to keep your garden adequately watered. However, it is important to water your plants at the optimal time of day to conserve water that is wasted due to evaporation. With many states anticipating water shortages, water conservation is a critical measure that gardeners can implement on a small-scale in their garden. Water during early morning and evening to minimize water loss. If you have an irrigation system, inspect it to ensure adequate pressure and coverage before the weather gets hot. Check and replace batteries if needed.
Make plans for what to grow during the summer
Depending on your growing zone, the type of plants that can be grown varies. You should start planning what warm season crops you want to grow during the summer by conducting research on the types of crops that are suited to your climate and growing zone. Popular vegetables to grow during the summer regardless of location include cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, and berries. Full-sun plants that thrive during summer include corn, squash, tomatoes, peanuts, basil, and sunflowers. If you live in a location that is habitually dry or experiences constant drought, consider implementing a native garden theme. Native gardens, which require less watering and often invite beneficial pollinators, are a great way to conserve water.
Add shade to your garden
Once you have decided on the type of plants you want to grow, evaluate their shade requirements and add shade whenever necessary. One way is to add shaded seating areas – trellises, arbors, and pergolas – to your garden space. Sunflowers are a great way to brighten eyesores in the garden as well as provide shade where needed. If you are planning to grow a large amount, situate them outside of your raised garden beds so that they won’t compete for nutrients with your crops. Also consider purchasing a shade cloth to shield your plants from the sun. Typically, a 40 – 60 % shade cloth is used for vegetables during the summer.
Construct a shade trellis
Those with a limited space to grow vegetables can consider trellises, which add structure to your garden and minimize the area you need to water. They can also be used to create shade for cool weather plants and maximize space in your garden beds. Plant climbing plants such as beans, cucumbers, or peas on trellises above a cool-weather crop like lettuce, which will provide shade and help you extend the growing season.
Use in-ground vermicomposting
In-ground vermicomposting simplifies the tedious process of composting by placing worms directly in the soil of your garden. Designed to be used in Vego raised garden beds, our in-ground worm composter solves many problems prevalent in traditional composting systems, such as unpleasant smells and fluctuating temperature conditions. During hot summer months, the worms will simply burrow deeper into the soil, foregoing the need to move them inside. Practicing good soil management is important, as plants that are healthy tolerate drought stress better than malnourished ones. Vermicomposting will improve the soil quality and structure through worm castings, which are dense in nutrients and microorganisms.
Avoid stressing your plants
Typical gardening tasks such as pruning, fertilizing, and transplanting are major stressors during periods of intense heat. Constant pruning of shrubs can weaken them, causing them to become leggy and susceptible to pests and disease. Avoid major shaping and pruning tasks during heat waves and wait until the weather has cooled. Plants that are already experiencing heat stress should not be pruned, fertilized, or have their leaves trimmed. Although the sight of burnt leaves may seem unsightly, refrain from pruning as it can lead to new growth which will become subsequently scorched.
Update your irrigation system
Most people think that a lawn sprinkler system will suffice, which is inefficient and wasteful. It can also cause problems related to fungal diseases. Some communities have instituted regulatory requirements about watering, so make sure to check them to avoid being fined. If you are planning on building only a few raised garden beds, a soaker hose is a good alternative to an irrigation system, which can be expensive. You can also consider installing a drip irrigation system, which will deliver water to the root level and utilizes less water than other irrigation techniques. Harvesting rainwater using rain barrels is also a great way to conserve water in your garden.
Due to the demands of urban landscapes, birds and other wildlife face increasing difficulty in accessing fresh water. Consider installing a bird bath, building a small pond, or simply putting out a saucer of water outside to offer wildlife a cool respite from the overbearing summer heat. Start researching ways to make your garden more wild-life friendly. Trees and shrubs with dense foliage are instrumental in providing shade, so consider adding several to your garden if it is lacking.