The days are beginning to warm up, and the anxiety about how your garden will survive the intense summer heat is rising as fast as the mercury in the thermometer.
Here are 10 ways to help your garden survive summer. Take a deep breath, grab a cool drink, and read them under the shade of your favorite tree before it gets too hot.
1. Plant your garden at the right time
If you do nothing else on this list, this one tip will help you be successful. Use a planting guide meant for your area and follow it. Planting at the right time helps garden plants to be established before the heat of summer comes. Healthy plants tolerate hot summer weather better than those struggling to get established.
If you live in the low desert of Arizona, click here to see the planting guides I use.
2. Choose the right plants for your garden
Look for varieties of crops that are adapted to do well in your area. If certain diseases are a problem, look for disease-resistant varieties. If you have shorter seasons like we do here in the low desert of Arizona, choose lower “days to harvest” varieties.
3. Be aware of microclimates in your yard
Pay attention to both the sunny and shady areas of your yard, especially during the hottest months of the year. The sun’s angle changes – know which areas will be affected the most by the hot late-afternoon sun.
4. Water your garden correctly to help it survive the summer
Most problems in the garden can be traced back to watering issues, such as not enough, too much, or sporadic. Invest in some sort of automated system. A watering system can be as simple as a battery-powered timer connected to a garden hose. Consistent watering will make all the difference in your garden.
Water in the early morning to give roots time to absorb the moisture. Watering during cooler hours also reduces loss from evaporation and heat.
For more information about how to correctly water your garden, read this article.
5. Mulch, mulch, mulch to help your garden survive summer
Mulch is a hot summer gardener’s best friend. Add 3-5 inches of organic mulch (compost, composted mulch, *straw, shredded leaves, pine needles, newspaper, cardboard) to see these benefits:
- Helps retain moisture
- Helps keep soil cool
- Deters weeds
- Adds organic matter to soil as it decomposes
*Straw is a better option for mulch than hay, because hay often contains seeds which can sprout in the garden. Straw normally has fewer seeds and sprouting is less of a problem.
6. Provide shade for your summer garden
Nearly all plants benefit from some afternoon shade during the hottest months of the year. Providing shade is like giving your plants a layer of sunscreen. This article gives several ideas for adding shade to your garden. Here are some guidelines for selecting shade cloth fabric:
7. Keep an eye on the wind
Hot, dry wind during the summer can take a toll on your plants. Ensure your young trees have support, and any shade structures or trellises are secured properly. Windy air also increases moisture loss in plants. Give your plants a big drink after a windstorm to replenish the lost moisture.
8. Don’t let the dust settle
Dust storms are stressful on plants. If a dust storm isn’t followed by rain, you may need to do the job and rinse the dust off your plants.
9. Baby your containers to help them survive the summer
Containers heat up more quickly than in-ground plants, and dry out even quicker. Because plants’ roots in containers can’t seek out moisture and cooler temperatures below ground, they rely on you to provide everything they need.
Plants in containers often need to be watered every day during the hottest months of the year. Use a moisture meter to check if they need water to prevent over-watering. (This is the moisture meter I use from Amazon.) If possible, consider moving containers to the more shaded or covered areas of your yard.
10. Adjust expectations
In the hottest parts of the country, your garden will probably not look its best during the heat of the summer. Pollen in tomato and pepper plants isn’t viable when temperatures are over 100℉. During very hot weather, many plants focus on staying alive rather than growing.
As temperatures begin to cool in the fall, plants (like us) will be relieved and welcome the cooler temperatures.