Keeping Your Garden Cool in the Summer Heat
With summer here in a big way, Bryan Traficante and Wiley Geren offer up some tips for gardeners to help beat the heat and enjoy maximum yields throughout the hottest months of the year.
Summertime brings long, sunny days days, swimming in the pool, vacation time, and the hottest temperatures of the year. Nationwide, temperatures will waver between 70-80˚F, with the southernmost states registering 90˚F and upward. It’s the optimum time for you to get a tan, but your garden won’t do so well if it’s left to sunbathe every day. Gardeners must take action so the summertime heat and sun intensity doesn’t scorch their gardens, killing vegetables, and leaving a dead patch. Fortunately, veteran gardeners have a few tips for keeping gardens cool during summer.
Here Comes the Sun
Direct sunlight coupled with longer days can bring the heat during the summer. It sucks up the moisture, dries out the soil, and reflects off bright surfaces, creating an oven-like atmosphere near the ground. Garden plants are resilient, but temperatures over 90˚F can cause damage to many plants over time. Temperatures over 95˚F can cause damage quickly, and potentially scorch your garden beyond return if exposed long enough. There are warm-climate plants, but even they can only tolerate so much. That’s why gardeners should research previous years’ temperature patterns and deploy protective measures as the heat starts to kick up.
Protective Measures Against Mr. Sun
First and foremost, keep the soil moist and your plants’ leaves dry. Water droplets on the leaves magnify the sun’s rays, burning the plant. Ground level garden irrigation systems, such as the Garden Grid watering system, disperse water at the base of the plants and right into the soil. This ensures water will be where the roots can reach and will take longer to evaporate. As a general point of reference, soil should be kept moist at least two inches deep, and should never look hard and cracked.
Go Heavy on the Mulch
Second, add some mulch. Mulch (leaf or composted mulch, but not wood chips) is a defensive coating on the top of your soil that’s nutrient-rich, providing multiple benefits. It insulates the soil, defends against the sun’s rays, and provides additional nutrients for hungry plants. Gardeners can be heavy- handed with mulch, amply covering gardens to keep soil nutrient/moisture-rich.
Third, weed your garden. When plants are searching for every drop of precious water possible, gardeners can reduce the competition. Weeds are unwelcome ‘mooches’ that pop up in gardens, sucking up water and nutrients that should be going to your welcomed garden plants. Weed seeds are often airborne or carried by other things, eventually landing in your soil. Plucking them from your garden as you see them pop up helps save the nutrients and water for the plants that matter most to you.
Made in the Shade
Finally, add some shade. Gardens will appreciate a nice, midday reprieve from the sunlight. By stringing up some white shade-cloth or screen material between a few supports near the garden, it will provide some shade during the day. Facing it towards where the sun will be after noon will repel the day’s most intense rays.
Which Vegetables Will Thrive in Summertime?
During summer gardeners will want to grow warm-climate ready plants. They are characterized by germinating in 50-90˚F temperatures, making them ideal for the year’s hotter temperatures. Lima beans, hot peppers, watermelon, cucumbers, and tomatoes are a few examples of popular warm-climate plants. Just because they do well in the heat doesn’t mean they should have to endure extreme temperatures, however.
Even these vegetables need assistance if you want them to thrive and bear their best fruit. By shading, mulching, and watering vegetables appropriately, gardeners will have a much more successful summer harvest.
Written by Bryan Traficante & Wiley Geren
Bryan Traficante is one of the co-founders of Garden In Minutes, where he and his family have one mission: making it easier for people to build and grow great gardens. Wiley Geren is a passionate writer, teacher, researcher, and entertainment enthusiast. A graduate of Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in English and business, he researches and writes gardening articles with Garden In Minutes.