Chances are you’re reading this from the comfort of your airconditioned house with windows closed and curtains drawn in hopes of staving off the sweltering summer heat. But outside, your poor plants are drooping and lamenting the fact that they don’t have the option of escaping inside.
Plants do have some natural ability to regulate high temperatures, but any time they’re subjected to sustained heat above 90 degrees they will – with few exceptions – struggle to survive. Leaves wilt as water evaporates quickly on hot summer afternoons and blossoms droop as energy is rerouted to cooling efforts. Plants can even get sunburned under the strongest summer sun.
So how do we avoid a struggling summer garden?
- Pick the right plants. Drought resistant and heat loving plants like cosmos, marigolds, salvia, and lantana do particularly well.
- Water often and correctly. Ensure that you’re not just watering the surface, which will encourage plants’ roots to grow shallow and wide and avoid watering during the afternoon when water droplets can actually act as magnifying glasses that lead to sunburns.
- Add mulch several times throughout the year to help keep the soil cool.
- Create some shade with plants of different sizes or build shade structures.
Summer Garden Chores
- Water, water, and more water. Consider setting up an automatic drip system to satisfy your thirsty plants.
- Keep on top of weeding so your plants aren’t competing for water and nutrients.
- Wait for bulb foliage to die back naturally before doing any trimming or digging them up for the season. Ensure bulbs are stored in a cool, dry place to avoid rot.
- Be sure to deadhead your roses and cut back hardy geraniums to encourage repeat flowering.
- Avoid wind damage by staking tall perennials like gladiolus.
- Harvest potatoes and make sure the soil stays moist without overwatering.
- Harvest lettuces and resow seeds every two weeks to ensure a constant supply all summer long.
- Prune plum and cherry trees.
- Make sure your fruit trees are getting the nutrients they need with liquid feed or slow-release fertilizers.
- Cut off runners on young strawberry plants to encourage the plant to produce fruit instead of diverting its energy. For mature plants, encourage new growth by pegging the plantlet (a mini plant at the end of the runner) with a hairpin so it is in contact with the soil and can send out roots of its own.
- Watch for aphids and other pests on the underside of leaves.
- Ensure compost bins are well aerated by turning the compost monthly.