Lynn has been a professional organic farmer for the last 35 years and runs a 210-acre farm in Western Colorado with her husband.
How to Protect Your Plants From Extreme Heat
In the summer, extreme heat can be really hard on your garden—it can stunt growth and cause your plants to abort their fruit or just kill your plants outright. So what can you do when your garden is growing along great—you can see those tomatoes and peppers starting to come in—and then the weatherman predicts a heatwave for your area? Does this spell disaster for your garden? It doesn't have to.
I've been a professional organic farmer for 35 years, and I've learned some easy and effective ways to protect my gardens from the heat (all 200+ acres of them!). If your area is prone to extreme heat or there's a heatwave about to hit, follow these four simple tips to protect your garden and help your plants through the summer.
1. Provide Shade
Shade is your number one defense against summertime heat, so place a 30% to 40% white shade cloth at least 12 inches above your garden so that the breeze can blow through underneath. You can also use a lightweight row cover the same way.
Contrary to what you might expect, plants usually will only sunburn when they are first put out in the spring, so that's when you'll really want to provide shade. Still, if you're expecting a heatwave once your plants are already established, it never hurts to be extra cautious and set up a shade cloth.
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2. Mulch With Light-Colored Material
Mulching the garden with a natural mulch—such as grass clippings, wood shavings, or bark—will help keep your plants' roots cooler and prevent water from evaporating so quickly. Make sure you use light-colored bark to keep from drawing even more heat toward your plants.
3. Water Deeply and Often
Providing your plants with extra water will help make sure they don't dry out. Moist soil and mulch can provide an evaporative cooling system for your plants. I recommend starting in the morning with a really good soaking and then re-soaking the plants in the late afternoon.
Note that this step won't be nearly as effective without the shade and cooling that shade cloths and mulch provide. All that extra water will just dry up and evaporate before it has the chance to do your garden much good.
4. Feed Your Plants
A well-fed plant will have more energy and more resilience to tough environmental conditions. I recommend starting to fertilize in spring so that your plants have a good foundation, but if you find that your plants are suffering in the summer heat, another dose of fertilizer may be helpful.
I usually feed my plants 1/2 cup of compost or worm castings once a month and 1 tablespoon of organic fruit and flower fertilizer once a month all season long.
Your plants will reward you with a bountiful harvest if you take extra care of them through the heat of the summer and any heat waves that come along. May your garden be easy, fun, productive, and always organic!
© 2021 Lynn Gillespie