June 4, 2015
5 Simple Ways to Protect Your Plants from the Destruction of Heat Stress
1. Mulch, for so many reasons
Direct sunlight can wreak havoc on your plants, but mulch – especially reflective kinds such as dry grass clippings – can be a plant-saver. It also reduces maintenance chores, saves water by retaining water and reducing evaporation, and encourages vigorous plant growth. This means less watering for you and happier, healthier roots. And the best part is that savvy gardeners can find everything they need for a good mulch without ever spending a dime. Other mulching options include straw, alfalfa, newspaper, black plastic sheeting, and even seaweed. Here is a helpful list of mulch variations that can be used for all temperatures and conditions.
2. Early morning watering
Drinking water first thing in the morning has been shown to provide a range of health benefits for us. And the same goes for our plants. Heat waves can quickly pull the moisture right out of soil and dehydrate shallow roots. Watering early in the morning ensures that roots are amply hydrated before the oppressive heat of the day begins. This also prevents heat stress, which is basically sunburn for your plants that occurs when the sun gets to its apex and plants' leaves are just too brittle to fight off the sun. A second watering is never a bad idea if just one isn’t doing enough. And don’t worry; if you’ve been lead to believe that mid-day watering will damage your plants, science says that’s just not true.
3. Shade cloth and row covers
Another way to prevent heat stress and protect your crops from the direct sunlight is a shade cloth or row cover. There’s a range of options here but Rimol offers a variety of shade structure options that have been vetted by gardening professionals. Just make sure your garden can still breathe and grow. If you cover plants too closely, helpful insects such as bees won’t be able to work their magic and heat will get trapped and defeat the purpose of shading in the first place.
4. Let established plants take transplants under their wing
An alternative to shade cloths or row covers is to plant transplants under the cover of stronger plants with established root systems. To return to the human/plant analogy, heat waves hit the youngest and oldest among us the hardest. This anecdote works just as well for plants. At least partial shading will go a long way to ensuring young plants don’t get scorched by direct sunlight. But make sure that the transplant still gets partial sunlight as permanent shade is just as deadly for a young transplant.
5. Plant seeds slightly deeper
If you get a late start to putting down seeds or live in a place that is warm year-round, plant seeds a bit deeper than you normally would. In the springtime, early morning and night temperatures are dramatically cooler than daytime temperatures but the temperature gap narrows during the dog days of summer. Warm temperatures and direct sunlight can dehydrate topsoil in no time. Planting a seed an extra inch or two deeper will allow the root systems to avoid being choked and dried out if this occurs.
Those first warm days of spring are a welcomed sight (and feel) for us gardeners. But gardening in the dead heat of summer can be a balancing act. With these tips, you can recognize and avoid heat stress in your plants and keep them safe, healthy, and happy. And remember, you’re also at the mercy of the sun. It is wise to avoid strenuous outdoor work when both the temperature and the humidity are high. As a rule, when the two numbers added together equal more than 160, stay indoors during the middle of the day.
Your turn: Did we miss any useful heat wave gardening tips? If so, don’t hold back. Share the wealth and comment your helpful tricks below!