Heat Wave Break Means Catching Up

ginger plant loves high heat

The ginger plant is thrilled with our heat wave.

The staggering heat wave broke a bit yesterday, which gave us enough of a break that one swamp cooler got fixed and back in service. When temperatures reach 85F inside of this big house, there’s not a lot of places to hide and stay cool.

Today is expected to hit 101F again but I don’t see 112F on the forecast through the rest of this month. This is the sort of heat we expect in August and into September.

A Few Plants Love the Sudden Heat

That was ok with many of the plants, however. The boost in ambient temperature was enough to send the ginger into giddy waves of growth – about three inches and four good-sized leaves in three days. Nothing like a good heat wave to make ginger feel right at home.

Heat Unfriendly to Some Indoor Plants

Those plants that aren’t wild about the high heat didn’t fare quite so well, although everyone survived thanks to an hourly dose of mist from my spray bottle and a few ice cubes. The yellow squash was complaining and shooting out more flowers in response to this insult. More flowers equals more chance of survival for the species.

Bottom Line

Don’t go nuts with the watering can and fluttering around trying to save every single plant from sudden heat. A gentle mist from a spray bottle helps keep the air from becoming too dry, and ice cubes around the perimeter of a planter can provide a steady but light flow of water.

Remember, your own heat wave survival must come first. Drink plenty of water – add a dash of lemon or lime juice to spark it up a bit. Keep your head and arms covered to avoid sunburn and dehydration. Don’t overdo, even indoors.

Water Tactics for Hot Weather Garden Survival

Ice cube watering for the dwarf jade

Dwarf jade and other indoor decoratives thrive on a diet of ice cubes during hot weather

Watering in the midst of a heat wave takes a great deal of control on the part of the new gardener. We confuse lots of watering with lots of gardening success. The hotter things get, the more we want to water stuff!

Why’s that? Maybe we’re thinking like fire fighters, where water is part of the saving process. Maybe we’re thinking that – well, we’re hot and want to drink water, so a plant will want to drink water when it’s hot, too. Or maybe we just want to do something so we don’t feel helpless.

Here in the high desert, temperatures are already getting brutal. On my way to an early-morning meeting yesterday, I passed a handful of time ‘n temp signs. The lowest was 88F – the highest was 97 – before 8:30 in the morning. I wanted to hurry home and soak my plants, even though I’d already watered them an hour before I left. I resisted the temptation to water and started writing instead!

Water Slowly and Other Suggestions

Instead of watering more often, heed these drought-friendly suggestions:

  • Water once a day, as early in the morning as possible
  • Get your watering done before 8am
  • Water slowly to reach deep roots
  • Be sure you’re watering the ground, not the air
  • Don’t water sidewalks and driveways
  • Use soakers, not sprinklers.

Rely on Extension Programs

Look for gardening programs in your area, like this Purdue Extension page on drought. Instead of guessing or listening to advice for a different growing zone than where you live, find an extension program near your garden and listen in!

Water Conserving or Not?

Plants don’t start out “drought tolerant.” Plants need a solid year to settle in before they can survive on reduced water or summer drought watering rations. Even plants that are “drought tolerant” need that year before they really can be drought tolerant.

Bottom Line

Unless you’re growing a rice paddy or catfish farm, you probably don’t need as much irrigation as your new-gardener brain is trying to tell you to use. But if you MUST do something, do what I do:  Grab a small pitcher and fill it with ice cubes. Carry this nice cold pitcher around with you while you’re fussing over plants. Instead of watering (aka “drowning’), give ’em an ice cube instead.

Be sure to drink plenty of liquids yourself at the same time. No sense working so hard to rescue those thirsty plants if you’re going to collapse of heatstroke while you’re doing so!