Summer Heat in the Garden

sharinggarden_slider_3Most North Vancouverite’s wish for warmer weather every summer so their heat loving crops like tomatoes and peppers have a chance to ripen before the autumn’s cool nights mark an end to the season. This year it is almost TOO hot! I have had many people asking what they can do to help their garden flourish in this hot summer weather – here are a few tips:

  • MULCH!! Use straw, dry grass clippings, leaves, or even newspaper to mulch thickly around your plants. Mulch helps keep moisture in your soil, which will help prevent your veggies from wilting. It can also protect and cool the soil by a few degrees – even a little bit helps!
  • Water DEEPLY not frequently: A long an deep watering a few times a week will supply your plants with lots of moisture deep into the soil, and train roots to go deep into the soil where they are protected from heat. When vegetables are watered frequently only at a surface level, their roots stay on the surface too; when it gets very hot the top couple of inches of soil dry out quickly and can scorch your roots! Access to soaker hoses or drip lie irrigation will help a lot, or try a DIY version of slow watering.
  • Water in the AM, and shoot for the ROOTS: Watering early in the morning will limit the amount of water wasted to evaporation, and any stray water droplets that land on leaves are less likely to cause burning in the direct sun. Hand watering with a hose, or using drip irrigation is preferable over using a sprinkler.
  • Bolting & Flowering: Some of your veggies will simply not do well in the heat. Spinach and Asian Greens are great examples; they will bolt or go to seed in hot weather like this. Once they have bolted they will be very bitter tasting, and are bound for the compost bin. When it gets hot you may also notice that fruiting plants begin to flower more (they are trying to reproduce quickly in case the heat or water stress kills them before they’ve had the chance to seed). Make sure that you feed these fruiting plants (ex. tomatoes, peppers, beans) with compost to ensure they have the nutrients required to produce delicious fruit.  Another great reason to add organic compost: healthy plants handle heat stress much better!
  • Create Shade: If all else fails, and you have an extremely hot garden location you may want to consider creating shade during the peak sunshine hours (10am-4pm). You can tie up an old bed sheet, purchase “shade cloth” from the garden store, or strategically place a patio umbrella in the garden (just make sure it won’t fall over!). Please make sure you don’t smother your plants with shade cloth – they’ll need lots of air circulation to take advantage of the cooler shade.
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