We are reminded during mandatory flight safety videos to take care of ourselves, first, then help others. The same principle applies to gardening in hot summer weather – we can’t water and tend to our gardens without first making sure that we are cool, protected, and hydrated.
Avoiding the heat altogether is the easiest way to take care of ourselves. Watering in the early morning is best for us, gardens, and lawns. Waiting until the late afternoon/early evening when temperatures have begun to drop is an excellent idea as well, when done properly.
We can’t always avoid being out in the garden when it’s too hot for comfort, so here are some tips for staying cool and avoiding overheating.
We’re already dehydrated if we wait until we feel thirsty before consuming fluids. Water is the best choice, and fruits such as watermelon help, but they are no replacement for water. For those of us who love lemons, drinking lemon water is a great way to hydrate.
When it’s hot and humid outside, our sweat can’t evaporate, so our bodies can’t cool down. In these circumstances, being well hydrated isn’t enough, and our bodies can overheat to the point of making us ill. It’s best to wear light colored, lightweight clothing, stay in the shade as much as possible, and take lots of breaks to dry off, re-hydrate, and cool down before going back out into the summer furnace. Don’t delay to seek help if you or anyone else shows signs of heat sickness.
We’ve all been drilled on the use of sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats, so we just won’t go there here.
We’ve touched on deep watering before, but it bears repeating. Trees, shrubs, and plants do far better with less frequent deep watering (the equivalent of one inch of rain), than with frequent light watering. With deep watering, they will all send their roots deeper into the soil, seeking water, and strengthening themselves.
There is no one-size-fits-all watering device. What seems to work for watering the lawn may be wasteful in the perennial or vegetable gardens. Know when to sprinkle, spritz, or soak and have the right tools on hand to do the job. Water left on plant leaves overnight is not necessarily a good thing, so bear that in mind when watering in the evening. Lawn sprinkler systems should be used sparingly and wisely. A long watering, delivering the equivalent of an inch of rain, once a week should suffice for most lawns. Don’t water the driveway or the road and don’t water during the hottest part of the day. Much of our area has a watering ban from 10:00AM until 4:00PM to make the wisest use of water outdoors.
Hot weather, to a point, accelerates plant life processes, resulting in a more rapid depletion of nutrients. As plant processes accelerate, the uptake of nutrients via fertilizer occurs more rapidly, often resulting in fertilizer burn. To keep pace with the plants’ ability to consume nutrients, more frequent feedings with smaller quantities of fertilizer may be in order, as long as adequate watering is possible. Trees, shrubs, and lawns should generally not be fertilized during the stressful hot mid- to late-summer months.
As always, there is no easy, universal solution for keeping ourselves and our gardens in good shape during the hottest days of the year. Read as many relevant sources as possible, and develop your own solutions that fit your specific situations. Keep calm and garden wisely.
Sources and more information:
Waterfall image courtesy of kichiwall.com