Garden plants need warmth and sunlight to grow, but when the temperatures climb in the middle of summer and the sun is scorching down it can be tough on even the hardiest plants. But your vegetables don't need to suffer from heat stress and can thrive through to fall harvest with a little extra care from you.
To keep your plants at their best during the hot summer days, follow these 7 tips!
1. Choose heat-hardy plants
Some plants are simply better at handling the heat than others. When planning your garden keep in mind the types of plants that flourish in the heat -- tomatoes, peppers, melons, sweet corn, eggplant, and squash often love temps in the 80's and 90's -- and try to schedule planting times so crops such as lettuce and spinach are harvested before it gets too warm.
2. Water in the morning
One of the worst things you can do during the scorching summer heat is to water plants during the hottest part of the day. Set your irrigation timers to water in the morning just before the sun comes up or head outside yourself as early as you can. This will give the water time to really soak into the ground before the heat sets in. Try to avoid getting water on the plants themselves, watering the soil around them instead.
3. Mulch around plants
Mulching around the base of plants will help to keep water from evaporating as quickly, and will also help to keep the soil temperature from climbing too high in the direct sun. Doesn't take much but a 2-3" layer of mulch will help beat the heat considerably. If you're unsure what type of mulch would be best, Gardener's Supply Company gives some great tips.
4. Fertilize lightly
When the weather is super hot, your plants aren't going to want to "eat" much just like you don't feel like eating heavy meals when you've been outside in the sun. Scale back on fertilizing to every 3-4 weeks and opt for something that isn't as heavy such as a compost tea. Home Composting Made Easy explains how to make your own.
5. Provide some shade
If possible, give your plants a little break from the sun. This can be done by strategically planting some ornamentals that will cast some shade during the hottest part of the day or by covering garden rows or raised beds with shade cloth.
6. Prune when needed
Many perennial plants bloom earlier in the season before the weather gets too hot. Remove spent flowerheads and dead, or dying, growth as soon as possible. This will help plants better utilize water and nutrient resources for the parts that are still growing instead of trying to unnecessarily allocate them where they aren't needed. It's also okay to prune back vegetable plants that are getting unruly and taking over the garden.
7. Decrease weed pressure
Weeds are competition for water and other resources. Keeping the garden weed-free will mean plants aren't fighting to get the water and nutrients they need to combat the heat.