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May 2018

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Protect Your Garden From Heat Waves

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Protect Your Garden From Heat Waves

Post by AlleyRose on Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:18 am

As temperatures are rising throughout the world, summers have become increasingly hot. Searing temperatures can cause crops to wilt and die before their time. Take these simple measures to protect your plants during a heat wave.

Many common vegetable crops do not have trouble withstanding the periodic heatwave. Yet it is very difficult for shallow root systems to to withstand extreme heat that creates dry, caked soil. You can offset the effects of heatwaves by paying attention to the condition of your soil and the placement of your crops.

Applying a layer of mulch, preferably reflective mulch such as dry grass clippings, will protect the soil and root systems against hot and windy weather. This will protect the soil from direct sun exposure, keeping the surface moist. Mulch can also reduce evaporation of water from the soil which will reduce the need for extensive watering.
Gardeners can use many different mulch materials. Light colored mulches will reflect the sunlight and help maintain a cooler surface temperature during a heat wave. Bark mulch is frequently used for shrub beds to prevent weed growth while providing shade to the soil and helping to conserve water. One issue with bark mulch is that it can contain weed seeds that can introduce invasive species to a shrub bed.
Watering your garden and shrubs early in the morning when it is not too hot, will allow your crops to absorb water easier. Water in the morning can also prevent heat scald which can damage leaves that have been watered while the sun is directly overhead. If the weather is extremely hot, seed and nursery beds should be watered more than once a day. Watering in the morning is also a wonderful defense against slugs and fungal diseases.
Shade cloth can offer protection from the sun. They are available at your local garden store in many different sizes, shade factors, and configurations. The shade factors normally range from 25% to 90%. Leafy greens may require a 50% to 60% shade factor, while other heat tolerant plants like squash and beans benefit from a 30% shade factors. These percentages refer to the degree of sunlight that is blocked. Shade cloth should be positioned to block sunlight while also not reducing aeration. You can achieve this by positioning your shade cloth on only one side or above the plant. Some farmers also use cardboard to shade their crops.
You can make your own shade cloth by using fish net with strips of cloth woven through.
Heatwaves have the largest impact on transplants. Root systems of young starter plants are shallow and susceptible to dry conditions in the top few inches of soil. Check the weather and wait until it cools down to start setting out transplants. If you have transplants that need to be set out soon, look for partial shading opportunities provided by taller, more mature plants. Be sure that you do not locate your transplants in an area that only has permanent shade. Instead look for a bare spot in your garden that is near plants that will soon be pulled because they may be nearing maturity. This location will give protection to the transplants while they are being established and provide them with more sun once they have settled.
You can also keep your grass over 3 inches tall because taller grass casts longer shadows. This will benefit the soil by helping it retain moisture.
Fertilizer is not needed during a heat wave because roots lose the ability to absorb nutrients in extremely hot temperatures. Wait until the temperatures cool down before adding any fertilizers to your garden or lawn.
As the summer approaches, keep these tips in mind and remember to stay cool!
Ariana Marisol is a contributing staff writer for She is an avid nature enthusiast, gardener, photographer, writer, hiker, dreamer, and lover of all things sustainable, wild, and free. Ariana strives to bring people closer to their true source, Mother Nature. She is currently finishing her last year at The Evergreen State College getting her undergraduate degree in Sustainable Design and Environmental Science. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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