Edited by Cathy Tylka, for Let’s Talk Plants! September 2023.
This month’s question -
We’re having a heat wave... Can you hear me singing?
What to do? What summer gems of advice do you have to keep your garden healthy and producing or do you just give up? Is there something you have learned that you can share with us on planting, watering, mulching, etc.?
Also, is there anything you do to protect yourself from the elements of sun, dirt, pokey things and heavy objects that you can share with us so we don’t harm ourselves in the process of playing in the garden?
Cindy Bruecks, of 92107, related it in this way…
… I have one useful and rather unique way to shield myself from the sun on a hot day. Years back I found a lightweight, think portable, umbrella stand. It's made of metal, not really large at the base, and will hold an umbrella unless there is a good wind blowing. I got a lightweight smaller patio umbrella, actually a beach umbrella, which fits easily in the stand. Now if I'm working in the sun, I can position that stand almost anywhere, even among my plants, and have shade for my job.
Unfortunately, I am out of town right now, and can't take a photo of the rig. But trust me on this, it's an easy-to-move portable shade!
Barbara Crawford of 92129 relates…
… Have you taken your established trees for granted? A few years ago, I noticed many dead branches amid the green leaves. Nothing had changed but the climate. Since then, I have put drip hoses around my large trees during spring and summer to encourage deeper roots. A very slow drip for six hours every four to eight weeks has resulted in health, resilience, growth, great shade, notably lower temperatures for the entire yard, and, may I hope, less water use overall.
Greg Rubin says…
… Hi All,
To relieve stress on my native plants, especially the coastal forms like ground cover Ceanothus and manzanita, for the duration of the heatwave, I will run the irrigation ~ three times a week, but only enough to wet the leaves and the mulch. I'm not trying to soak the soil; just cool down the plants and cut back on transpiration. A good mulch, when lightly moist, can be invaluable for increasing vapor pressure and thus limiting evaporation, while allowing all but the surface of the hot soil to remain fairly dry, which limits the potential for pathogens to spread. This light, frequent irrigation basically acts somewhat like fog drip. You always want to do your watering when the soil is at its coolest; before dawn is ideal.
As for myself, I ALWAYS wear a wide brim hat (especially since I'm follicularly challenged), wear a good sunscreen, and always have water within easy reach. Never push past the sensation that you’re getting just a tad tired - find shade and sit IMMEDIATELY! Otherwise, you are in danger of significant dehydration. If you've stopped sweating, that is a sure sign, and heat exhaustion is no joke. Working in the early morning or at dusk is also preferable.
…and Greg also shared this, with his Thanks!
“Just want to thank everybody for their patience during my recovery. The good news is that my new knee is great! Unfortunately, the physical therapy led to a severely compromised back which has set me back a few weeks. It is slowly starting to improve, and I can tolerate being in the office for a couple of hours here and there. If you have a new inquiry or if you need a timely response, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 760-746-6870. I am truly sorry for the inconvenience.”
Thelma Lee of 92116 shared…
… I am in University Heights. I water almost every morning to supplement my drip irrigation system. I tend to give extra water to the edges of beds and to my pots. I never skimp on water and here is why; In this country, environmental issues are placed predominantly on the heads of individual citizens. This is while big companies continue to waste. It’s the same thing with carbon footprints. Until industry makes a concerted effort to save water, as an individual owner of a very small butterfly and bird garden, I am not about to make sacrifices that risk the health of the pollinators and creatures that depend on me.
Karen England, 92084 admits...
... I am not a fan of heat waves, but my garden is! Even though I am in the "just give up" camp when it is sweltering, I don't because currently my garden is rewarding me with lovely hot colors like this...