Extreme Heat: Can your garden survive?

The Southwest expects extreme heat - but not necessarily in June.

The Southwest expects extreme heat – but not necessarily in June.

The jet stream is galloping north, and we of the high desert are in line for temperatures at 115F — and up. Extreme heat for here – we get blistering hot temperatures in July, August, September – and we expect it then. But it’s June, for Pete’s sake.

Can your garden survive extreme heat?

There’s no guarantee that gardens, lawns and newly planted trees can come through extreme heat stretches unscathed, but they’ll have a better chance of making it if you take these preventive measures while you can still step outside safely:

Veggie gardens:

  • Mulch – layer on three inches wherever possible. This will keep the soil cooler and help retain water.
  • Water –  deeply and often. Use a trickle hose or soaker to get the water to the roots instead of into the atmosphere.
  • Shade – leafy greens have a better chance of surviving with a shade cloth, which may slow down bolting.

Lawns: 

  • Soak to get water through dried soil. Water as early as possible in the day to reduce evaporation loss.
  • Skip the mowing until the weather cools off – not just for your health and safety, but also for the health of your lawn.
  • Set your water system for pre-dawn hours if at all possible.

Trees:

  • Trees need two to four inches of water each week to survive the high temperatures. Skip the sprinkler and grab the soaker hose.
  • Water early, water slow, water deep, especially on new trees and shrubs.
  • Mist can help save shrubs by protecting delicate foliage (if you’re willing to “water the air” to do so).

Bottom line, though, is this: You can grow another garden. You can recover, reseed or pave over a lawn. You can coax many trees back to health —or replace newly planted ones if they don’t make it.

You cannot, on the other hand, come back to life if you die of heat stroke.

Extreme heat can kill you. Know the symptoms of heat illness and heat stroke. Stay hydrated, and be alert for changes in your body temperature, pulse and blood pressure, and watch out for dizziness, pallor. If you STOP sweating, take immediate measures to cool down.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

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!