Keeping your garden looking it’s best during the heat and humidity can be a challenge. We’re setting record temperatures and heat waves lately. The humidity is considered “tropical” just about every day, and I can’t remember the last time we had good day of rain. The insect population also seems to have exploded (probably due in part to the lack of winter we had last year).
Plants are covered with blotches, not to mention the weeds that seem to crop up overnight. If you feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Summer can take it’s toll on both you and your garden, but here are some strategies to help you keep up with the stress of summer.
Water properly. Morning is the best time to water. The dew is still on the plants and your
garden is naturally damp. By watering in the morning, you’ll reduce the chances of your plants getting a fungus such as black spot or powdery mildew. It also allows time for the water to really sink into the ground and reduces evaporation. Water deeply at the base of your plants instead of overhead. Watering at the base keeps water off the leaves of your plants helping to prevent both fungus and evaporation. Soaker hoses are great for watering. I frequently run soaker hoses under the mulch in gardens that don’t have irrigation. If plants are still looking droopy but you’re watering, invest in a soil moisture meter to take the guess work out of it.
Garden chores do not cease in the heat. I recommend getting your weeding done early in the morning. Plants wilt in the heat of the afternoon sun, and gardeners do too. Not only that, but when the ground is damp from the morning dew, the weeds tend to come out a little easier. Over exerting yourself in the heat can lead to serious dehydration or injury, so be sure to drink plenty of water.
Withhold fertilizer (or apply a diluted ratio). Soil temperatures above 85 can cause plants to go into semi-dormant mode. They’re surviving, but not thriving, so they’re not prepared to make use of fertilizer. Just as you wouldn’t want a big meal on a hot summer day, your plants feel the same way.
Make sure your garden is properly mulched. A good layer (3” or so) of mulch will help protect plant roots from heat and help keep moisture in the ground.
Continue deadheading (removing spent flowers). This along with proper moisture will encourage your plants to keep flowering. If you’re loosing the war on insects, you can hand-pick the beetles in the morning and put them in hot, soapy water to eliminate them. I try hard to avoid using pesticide to prevent harming beneficial insects. Neem oil is a good all-around fungicide and insecticide and is non-toxic to bees.
The biggest key to coping with summer stress is proper hydration. Water deeply and keep all these tips in mind and your garden should be beautiful all summer long.