Gardening in the Summer Heat

How can your garden stand the heat?Here in Texas we have two main growing seasons.  Spring and Fall.  We plant things as soon as the fear of frost is past (and sometimes before, if we’re feeling lucky).  Then we hit a dry spell during the dog days of summer when it is too hot for many plants to produce.  Take tomatoes, for instance.  Once the nighttime low temps are above 70 degrees, tomatoes can’t set fruit.  Once the hottest part of the summer is past, we have another growing season before there is any threat of frost.

The plants aren’t the only ones who suffer in the heat.  Hard work in the garden in the heat of summer can be dangerous for the gardener too.

So, what is a gardener to do?

As far as your own safety is concerned, early morning is your friend.  Thankfully the sun rises earlier in the summer so you can get up very early and do all of your garden work before the rest of your family is up (and before the mercury goes up too).  Drink lots of water, wear a hat and loose clothing.  Be careful.  Leave really heavy tasks for the fall when the weather cools down.

Your plants are going to need vigilant watering while it is so hot outside.  The water evaporates quickly so it’s important that you don’t miss a day of watering.  Pots and other containers especially need regular watering.

Mulching helps keep the soil cooler and slows down the evaporation of moisture from the soil.   Dried yard clippings and ground leaves make a great mulch abundantly available free of charge.  (If you use herbicides of any type in your yard, don’t the clippings as mulch in the garden.)

While you do need to be vigilant about watering, you should avoid watering your plants with hot water.  You know how the water standing in the garden hose gets so hot during the day?  Don’t water your plants with that water.  Let it run into the yard or into the pool.  Also, try not to let water stand on the leaves.  Do you remember as a kid using a handheld magnifying glass to concentrate the heat of the sun to burn something like a bug or a piece of paper?  Well, a drop of water on the leaf of your plant can act just like that magnifying glass and burn those leaves.

On top of all that, know that there are crops that do better than others in extreme heat.  Here’s a list:

Basil

Peppers

Summer squash

Okra

Purple hull peas

Black eyed peas

Water melon

Cantaloupe

So, be careful with your health.  Be choosy with your plants, and keep the water flowing.  Happy summer!

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