How to Protect Your Garden Against Heat Stress

If you’ve had a good gardening year so far, then by now, all the digging, hoeing, weeding, and feeding will have begun paying off. Your family is enjoying the salad greens and potatoes. Your basil is thriving, and so are your parsley and chervil.

Go ahead. Take a little break and look around. There is life everywhere and bright summer colors abound.

Some early beetroots and carrots should be coming along fine in their little plot. Tomatoes, too. Be sure you check on them every day.

Over by the verge, past the chest-high corn, your climbing beans will have already conquered the fence. Meanwhile, your nasturtiums and foxgloves will have bloomed into an astonishing show of oranges, pink, and white under the bright sunlight.

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy your garden.

Protecting Your Garden Against Heat Stress

In this picture-perfect weather, it’s easy to forget that summer brings its own set of challenges and health risks. For gardeners, heat stress and sunburn are the most obvious and immediate concerns.

That being said, sunscreens should by now be part of your daily routine. Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day, too. That just might save you a costly visit to the doctor.

Remember, also, that you are not the only one at risk. Excessive heat can cause equally irreparable damage to your garden.

In plants, the symptoms of heat stress include wilting, blossom and leaf loss, and dull yellow patches on leaves and produce. If left untended, stricken plants will die.

Fortunately, you can protect your patch of green against heat stress with a few smart and simple preventive measures.

1. Keep soil evenly moist.

Protect your plants against heat stress by keeping the soil evenly moist. Deeper and less frequent watering is more effective for most plants than frequent, shallow watering.

Deep watering allows plant roots to grow stronger and healthier, and you will not need to water as often.

To check whether it’s time to water, push your finger down into the soil. If it is still moist a knuckle or two deep, then your plot doesn’t need water yet.

If it’s dry, then it’s time to give the soil a long, deep soak to ensure that the water reaches the root zone.

In general, soil moisture should reach up to 4 inches in depth to provide the best protection for gardens during the height of summer.

Protect your plants against heat stress by keeping the soil evenly moist.
Protect your plants against heat stress by keeping the soil evenly moist.
(Photo: Nenad Stojovic/Flickr)

2. Mulch your garden.

Now is a good time to lay a blanket of organic material over your garden. You can use straw, leaves, shredded paper or cardboard, or bark as a mulch. The protective cover will moderate soil temperature and prevent runoff and evaporation.

Mulch will also help the soil in your garden retain moisture and nutrients even under intense sunlight.

You can purchase bagged mulch at your nearest garden center. If you are up to the task, you can make some right at home.

Mulch moderates soil temperature while preventing runoff and evaporation.
Mulch moderates soil temperature while preventing runoff and evaporation.
(Photo: Kenny Point/Flickr)

3. Continue weeding.

Let your flowers and vegetables take advantage of all they can draw from the soil by reducing competition from unwanted vegetation. Weeding will help your plants cope.

High summer temperatures quickly dry out the soil, leaving it hard and stale. Removing weeds reduces competition for limited moisture and nutrients.

Sure, weeding can be tedious and tiresome, but it’s absolutely necessary – especially around this time of the year.

4. Shade your plants against direct sunlight.

Shade your soil and plants against direct sunlight. If you are the type who enjoys the DIY approach, you can create a flexible structure to hold your shade in place.

Simply hang a cloth or some mesh cut from an old window screen from a line stretched between two posts.

Or you can visit your gardening center to choose from a wide variety of commercial gardening shade.

Either way, your protective shade should be 3 to 4 feet away from the plants to allow optimum airflow.

Shade your soil and plants against direct sunlight.
Shade your soil and plants against direct sunlight.
(Photo: Linda N/Wikimedia Commons)

5. Keep tabs on the weather.

If you are interested in gardening, then you are probably interested, at least somewhat, in the weather. Understanding the basics of meteorology and keeping track of the weather can make your gardening more fun.

Check the weather report for your area at least once a week. Some gardeners even monitor several forecasts daily, either by television, radio, or the Internet.

Knowing when there may be a heatwave just might be what saves all the fruits and blossoms of your hard work this year.

Check the weather report for your area at least once a week.
Check the weather report for your area at least once a week.

Maintaining a Healthy Summer Garden

We’ve all experienced it, especially these days. Blistering temperatures above typical summer averages drive us indoors – into the comfort of our homes. But what about the plants in our gardens?

Unless they are in a pot and can be brought indoors, they are stuck outside in the blazing heat.

Follow the steps we’ve outlined above to protect your plants from heat stress this summer.

Keeping well informed and taking necessary precautions are key to maintaining a healthy, productive summer garden.


Close Panel