Vail Landscape Logic column: Tips for helping veggies beat the summer heat
These past weeks have had scorching temperatures — and there will be more hot days ahead. Each successive heat wave threatens the health of our plants. It’s up to us as plant-loving gardeners to help our plants beat the heat.
Following are three things we should do – and three things we should not do — to help veggies keep their cool.
Know when and how to water: How and when you water really matter during a heat wave. Keep the following tips in mind:
Water either early in the morning or later in the evening as this allows plants to take in moisture when the sun isn’t evaporating it from the soil.
Water deeply so it soaks down to all of the roots, which is especially important for trees. This makes roots stronger so they deal better with heat stress down the road.
Consider automatic drip irrigation because it delivers consistent moisture to plants. Plus, your plants will never be waiting for you to come home to water them.
If you’re currently watering automatically with spray heads, then consider converting to a drip system. With drip, less water is lost to evaporation because it puts the water directly at the root zone. What’s more, water won’t be lost in the wind and it won’t run off the soil and down the gutter as it can with spray heads.
Hold onto the water you’ve applied by adding mulch: While there are many varieties of mulch, the purpose is the same — to hold moisture in the soil so it doesn’t evaporate and to help control weeds. We don’t want weeds sucking up the water from the tomatoes. Natural mulches such as bark and straw help keep roots cool, too.
Provide shade: We plant our veggies in full sun — but at high temperatures, sunshine becomes too much of a good thing. Use pieces of shade cloth (available at the garden center) and stakes to create a temporary shade structure above your plants. It allows light in while keeping plants underneath shaded.
To NOT DO
Three things you should not do during a heat wave:
Don’t fertilize edibles during a heat wave — dry plants can take up too much fertilizer which can cause leaves to burn and even die.
Don’t re-pot or transplant as this adds more stress. Transplant when temperatures are cooler.
Don’t prune off wilted growth — allow it to provide shade to leaves below. If wilted growth needs trimming, then let the plant recover from heat stress and prune on a cooler day.