Although spring is beautiful, if you live in a hot-summer climate, the thought of the upcoming summer has you worried. Hot temperatures are coming, and it’s essential to prepare your garden for the hot summer ahead.
What you do before the heat comes will affect how your vegetables, herbs, and flowers withstand the heat of the upcoming summer. Here are 10 ways to prepare your hot-climate summer garden.
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1. Eliminate small containers
During the cooler months of the year, use containers of any size to grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers successfully. But when it gets hot, small containers heat up and dry out VERY quickly. In addition, their small size makes growing anything in them difficult.
So when temperatures climb, it is time to put the small containers away until things begin to cool down in the fall. Remove the soil from the containers and use it as mulch, or add it to your compost. If desired, continue using large containers that hold 10 gallons of soil or more.
For more information about container gardening, read this blog post, “Container Gardening for Beginners: 10 Steps for Success“.
2. Use ollas (oyas) in containers in your hot-climate summer garden
When using large or extra-large containers during the summer, (if possible) add ollas to the containers. Using ollas in containers keeps them from drying out as fast during the hot summer.
Ollas are a form of plant irrigation that slowly provides water at the roots as the water seeps out of the terra cotta pot buried underground. You refill the olla as it empties. I use ollas from Growoya. Use code GROWING for a small discount.
For more information about adding ollas to your garden, read this blog post, “The Best Way to Water Outdoor Potted Plants“.
3. Inspect watering and irrigation system
During the cooler months, a broken emitter may not be a big deal, but during the summer, the intense heat of hot-summer climates means that a plant could die before you realize it needs water. So check all parts of your watering and irrigation system BEFORE it gets hot.
- Run the drip irrigation system and inspect the emitters on all of your landscape plants.
- Check the watering system in each bed to ensure adequate water pressure and coverage.
- Add additional emitters as needed.
- Inspect timers.
- Check and replace batteries in timers.
- Inspect fittings on hoses and replace o-rings as needed to fix leaks.
For more information about watering your garden, read this blog post, “The Best Way to Water Raised Beds“.
4. Mulch, mulch, mulch!
Mulch is a hot summer gardener’s best friend. The sun in hot-summer climates is hard on plants and the soil. However, there are many advantages to adding mulch:
- Mulch shades the soil from the sun’s direct rays causing minor temperature variation.
- A thick layer of mulch means that less moisture is lost through evaporation. You can then water less frequently, saving water, money, and time!
For more information about using mulch, read this blog post, “Mulching Your Garden: What to Use and How to Use it”.
5. Evaluate cool-season plants in your hot-climate summer garden
As summer approaches, cool-season crops won’t survive if you live in a hot-summer climate. So if a crop isn’t going to produce before it gets hot, I usually remove the plant so it doesn’t get stressed out and attract pests.
6. Plant and make plans for summer planting
Use the empty spots in your garden to plant warm-season crops. Then, when existing crops like potatoes, garlic, and onions are harvested, decide what to plant. Use the May, June, July, and August planting guides for ideas.
7. Add cover crops to empty beds
If garden beds are not going to be used for six weeks or more, adding a cover crop is a good idea. Cover crops are a type of living mulch that helps improve the soil.
Some hot-climate summer garden cover crops are soybeans, cowpeas, sorghum, and tithonia.
8. Evaluate your yard for needed shade
Once you have your plan of what to plant in your garden, assess the shade needs of your garden. First, look at the areas that receive full sun. Do you need to add some shade? Some plants grow well in full sun, while others do not. Next, evaluate where it would be helpful to add shade in your hot-climate summer garden.
For more information about shade, read this blog post, “How to Create Shade in the Garden”.
9. Add shade as needed to your hot-climate summer garden
Shade keeps the direct sun off foliage, and the shaded area can be about 10℉ cooler than areas without shade. In addition, providing shade for plants can lower the amount of moisture loss through transpiration (evaporation of water from plant leaves). There are several different ways to add shade to your garden.
Sunflowers are an excellent way to add natural shade where needed.
- Grow sunflowers outside of your raised beds, so they do not compete with the crops in the beds.
- Plant sunflowers on the west side of the garden to help provide afternoon shade.
- Plant branching varieties of sunflowers for the longest-lasting blooms and shade.
10. Expect and learn from challenges in your hot-climate summer garden
Summer gardening in hot-summer climates isn’t easy. Each summer brings different challenges.
- Will there be monsoon winds, moisture, and rain?
- Will there be record-breaking hot temperatures again this year?
Preparing for summer may mean expecting that some plants will not survive. However, it is essential to learn from our mistakes and the circumstances outside our control.
For more information on hot-climate summer gardening, read this post, “Summer Gardening in Arizona“.