Hot Tips for Gardening in a Heat Wave

Sunflower Summer Blossom

With temperatures rising all over the country, your lovingly maintained garden may be taking a beating under the mid-summer sun. But fending off the brutal heat isn’t just about pouring water on your plants. Here are some hot tips for gardening in a heat wave.

In this article:

Water smartly

Watering Tree in Lawn
Photo Credit: Pxhere | CC0 1.0

Whether watering by hand with a garden hose or putting irrigation systems in place, water is the most important factor during a heat wave. The key to plant survival in extreme heat is knowing how and when to water them.

Hot Tip: Water in the early morning, between 6 and 10 a.m., before the high heat of the day. This is important because:

·      Plants absorb water better when they’re not under heat stress from the full sun. 

·      The air and soil are cooler in the mornings, minimizing evaporation. 

·      Early morning waterings prevent heat scald, which can damage leaves.

·      Sprinkler water can be lost to wind and evaporation in the heat of the day.

·      Moisture left on the leaves has time to dry out before nightfall.

·      Cool and wet conditions throughout the night could encourage fungi and bacteria growth, slugs, and other pests.

Hot Tip: In arid climates, you can water in the late afternoon, between 4 and 7, with little risk of fungi, bacteria, or pests taking over. Per the National Weather Service, the driest states in the U.S. include: 

·      Spring in the U.S. – Arizona and New Mexico

·      Summer in the U.S. – California and Nevada

·      Fall in the U.S. – Nevada and Wyoming

Hot Tip: Water deeply. An infrequent, deep soak is better than more frequent, light waterings.

Hot Tip: Put a sponge at the bottom of container plants to act as a water reserve.

Seed and nursery beds, as well as smaller raised beds, may require two waterings a day. Container plants dry out more easily than those planted in the ground and will need to be watered more frequently to maintain moisture.

To determine if your plants need water, poke a finger into the soil to determine whether the top couple of inches are dry or not. If they are, you could benefit from a good watering.

Hot Tip: Use drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses to effectively water plants at the root zone and effectively conserve water. 

Drip irrigation systems take time to set up and could cost considerably more. They are, however, beneficial for conserving water because they target certain plants while preventing flow to others, and you can set the watering schedule.

To make a DIY drip irrigation system, for potted plants:

1.     Grab a plastic bottle.

2.     Poke a hole in the cap and put a Q-tip through it.

3.    Tape a stick to the bottle.

4.     Fill the bottle with water.

5.     Replace the cap. 

6.     Turn the bottle upside down, and stick it in the soil next to the plant.

Soaker hoses are porous and release water slowly into the surrounding soil to ensure plants get sufficient water at their bases. They are pretty cost effective as well. A 50-foot soaker hose runs anywhere from $10 to $25 at most garden supply stores.

Structure gardens to hold moisture

Water droplets on grass
Photo Credit: Ashish | Pixahive | CC0 1.0

The layout of your garden affects your plants’ access to sun and water and provides protection from the sun, wind, and other elements. Of course, you can use heat- and drought-tolerant plants in your garden. If you don’t, plan to take necessary precautions in scalding weather.

Hot Tip: Apply a generous layer of mulch to protect your soil from direct sun exposure, evaporation of water, and weed growth.

Hot Tip: Install shade trees or annuals. New transplants are susceptible to heat because their root systems haven’t had time to develop yet. These plants will need to be shaded from the harsh sun. You can accomplish that by installing taller, hardier plants and small trees to shade your garden. 

Hot Tip: Establish indicator plants, such as squash and melons. When their leaves start wilting, you’ll know that your garden can use a good soaking.

Hot Tip: Choose heat- and drought-tolerant plants for your garden. Common vegetable crops and native plants can withstand periodic heat waves. 

See these Lawn Love articles for more information on drought-tolerant plants:

·      11 Best Drought-Tolerant Perennials

·      9 Best Drought-Tolerant Annuals

·      9 Best Drought-Tolerant Shrubs

·      9 Best Drought-Tolerant Ground Covers

Hot Tip: Increase humidity by grouping plants together, particularly those in containers, or under a canopy of larger plants. During periods of dry, hot weather, mist your humidity-loving plants with a garden hose.

Hot Tip: Use shade cloth or row covers for partial and temporary sun protection. These come in a variety of sizes, shade factors, and configurations. It is important to position them in a way that blocks sunlight but doesn’t reduce aeration. Position the shade cloth on one side of the plant or above the plant and ensure that the structure can withstand strong winds.

Keep up with garden maintenance

Cutting the bushes
Photo Credit: Pxhere | CC0 1.0

Another important factor for surviving this brutal heat is keeping your garden well-maintained. This means keeping up with the weeds, as invasive weeds will compete with your beloved plants for water and nutrients, and we need to conserve every bit during this time. Amend your soil with organic material, like compost, to help retain water.

Hot Tip: Avoid applying fertilizers since roots can’t absorb nutrients as well during periods of intense heat.

Hot Tip: Cut flowers at the crack of dawn before they flop in the midday heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it Ok to plant during a heat wave?

A: Although planting during a heat wave is not an ideal approach, there are ways to do it successfully. You must be able to provide ample moisture for plants that are establishing new roots. 

Q: How often should I water my garden during a heat wave?

A: Your garden should be watered before the first couple inches of soil go dry. This could be as often as 1-2 times per week in extreme heat. What’s most important is that when you do water, you water thoroughly enough to reach deep into the root system.

We can’t control the climate and weather, but we can control how it affects our gardens. Use these gardening tips and information to help keep your plants healthy in hot weather and reach out to your local Lawn Love lawn care professional for help when needed. 

Main Image Credit: piggeldi | Pxhere | CC0 1.0

Madeline Hoppe

Born and raised in Tampa, FL, Madeline Hoppe is a customer service expert with a deep respect for the written word. In her down time, she enjoys low-key nights watching movies with her family or heading to one of Tampa Bay's local beaches on a summery day.