WINNIPEG - The worst of the heatwave may seem over, but we’re still in for a stretch of hot, sunny, and dry conditions that could be harmful to our plants and flowers. As I sit out here sweating buckets while my little buddy gives me a hand with the watering can, I can think of six important ways we can care for our plants — and ourselves — in the heat of summer.
1. Water often, deep, and at the right time.
Give your lawn and garden a good soak, directly into the soil, getting to the root tips far beneath the soil surface. Do this in the early morning, so they take up moisture before the worst heat. It’s harder for plants to absorb the moisture if they’re watered in the heat of the afternoon, and it teaches them to expect water during that time of day. Keep track of how much you’re watering and for how long, so you can see how your plants respond.
2. Get shady.
Consider how much sun different parts of your garden get throughout the day. Move potted plants accordingly, and for the rest you can set up shade netting or net curtains to keep them cool. In my garden, I’ve even pinned bedsheets to stakes to do the job! Each type of plant needs a different amount of sunlight: some just need a few hours, and others full sun. Morning sunshine and afternoon shade are best for vegetable gardens.
3. Keep up with the weeding.
Some weeds flourish during heat waves, and weeds compete with the plants we like for both water and nutrients. Look through your flowers and stay on top of weed control. Try to pull the weeds out by the root, and avoid using weed killers, as herbicides can get volatile in extreme heat, causing vapours to drift and damage surrounding plants.
4. Don’t forget feeding.
Make sure your plants get the right nutrients they need to survive. But be careful here: the best plant food for hot weather includes banana peels, vegetable trimmings, eggshells, tea bags, leaves, and other compost. It shouldn’t be pure nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium, as fertilizers are types of salt, which can further dehydrate or even burn plants when they’re added at the wrong time.
5. Put mulch down.
Adding and watering a thick layer of leaves, straw, mulch, or wood chips will give your soil a layer of damp shade, locking in that precious moisture. It smothers weeds, regulates soil temperature, and add nutrients as it breaks down. Be generous, especially around young plants, surface roots, and vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers. Put at least 5 cm (2 inches) on top of the soil, up to 10 cm (4 inches) in extremely hot weather. Just don’t pile it up around the base of any plants, as that can cause rotting.
6. Take care of yourself.
You need to avoid wilting, too! Throw a hat on, and slap on the sunscreen before going out. Keep yourself as hydrated as you’re keeping your garden — Carry a water bottle — and use it! Plan to work in your garden around the same time as you do your watering — in the morning, before the hottest part of the day. As for me, I just use my wings as a pair of fans to beat the heat — but I assume you’re not a bee like I am.
Please let me know if you have any other great ideas that I forgot to mention. Stay cool, safe, and comfortable out there — and happy gardening!
“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?” –Steven Wright