The Garden Muse — Tip aid with gardening during hot summer months

Published 1:43 pm Thursday, June 30, 2022

Gardening in the scorching summer months can be challenging, add high humidity and excess/lack of rainfall to the challenge and many an enthusiastic gardener has simply abandoned all efforts to keep things growing all together.

I have some simple tips and best practices that may help quell the frustration and feelings of defeat in the garden.

One of the single most important things to do to prepare all gardens for the sweltering summer months is to mulch. A nice thick layer of mulch will help keep the soil underground and the plant roots cool and moisture rich. Mulch will also help to keep weed growth to a minimum. I also have found weeding much easier when the garden bed is sufficiently mulched. A layer of mulch in potted plants will help keep the potting soil cool and slow moisture evaporation.

During extreme heat it is especially important to water the garden and potted plants as early in the morning as possible. You want to water close to the ground/ soil surface, deep and thoroughly. One good soaking early in the day is much better than numerous inadequate waterings throughout the day. If you water late in the day, in the blazing sun you may cause ‘sun scald’ on your plants’ leaves. The water droplets are held in place by the tiny plant hairs and act like a magnifying glass in the sun. If you water in the evening, especially during times of high humidity, you are increasing the chance of moisture loving fungus such as powdery and downy mildew to appear. Garden pests also are attracted to moisture. Water evaporates/dries on plants much faster during the day than it does in the evening.

Some activities that you should not do during extreme heat include fertilizing, repotting and pruning. These activities will all cause stress to the plants and are best done at a time when the temperatures are cool.

Keeping the garden and potted plants tidy and weed free also will help to reduce stress. However, it’s best to perform these activities early in the morning or in the evening when the sun has gone down.

Shade covers can help in the garden and careful container placement (morning sun and afternoon shade) will also do wonders in helping to keep your plants healthy in the summer heat.

I always remind my gardening friends not to forget to hydrate themselves as well — so drink lots of water. Additionally, always wear sunscreen.

Dawn Conrad is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Herbal enthusiast, Writer and Fiber Artist. She can be contacted at dawn@mygardenmuse. com.