A bright and beautiful summer is something that the plants in your garden love. But a heatwave is a different thing altogether. Prolonged intense heat can be deadly for the plants. The good news is, you can take the right measures to protect garden plants from the heat. So we are going to discuss the most important steps you can take, in detail.
How Heat Damages Plants?
Plants take in carbon dioxide that they need to prepare food through tiny pores in the leaves called the stomata. The tradeoff is they also lose water through these holes. This process is called transpiration. At times when they are losing too much water or, during water scarcity, plants shut these pores. That also prevents the intake of carbon dioxide and affects the food supply.
Usually, a heatwave occurs when temperatures are around 90°F or above for a week or more. This can result in soil water shortage and increase the soil temperature.
When a heatwave coincides with a water shortage, it gets tough for the plants. With higher temperatures, the rate of losing water gets faster. This leads to water stress, which prevents the plant from functioning normally. The rise in air temperature also affects the production of enzymes that assist the process of photosynthesis.
In some scenarios, the plant is unable to prepare food while trying to prevent water loss. This causes the plant to starve. It may also happen, the plant loses its ability to absorb water from the ground as the soil dries up. Death can also result from a combination of both of these scenarios.
If the situation continues, the plant will eventually die due to the combined effect of heat and water stress. However, not all species of plants feel the effect of heat equally. Usually, the deep-rooted species are more drought-tolerant than the shallow-rooted crops.
How to Care for Plants in Hot Weather?
Here are six effective tips to protect plants in hot weather on the homestead.
The first step is to make sure your plants never get too thirsty. The best watering time is during the evening when the temperatures are lower. That way the water can reach the roots without evaporating. Apply sufficient water so that it penetrates deeper into the soil and the root zones. Use a sprinkler that allows the water to hit the ground gently. Using a strong jet can erode the soil.
Heat burns can happen during the hottest part of the day. To prevent them, you can also plan a second session of watering. Maintain a regular watering schedule to keep the soil damp, but not soggy, at all times. Keep in mind, plants in containers will need more frequent watering than garden plants. Also, make sure to water directly over the root area to maximize the water intake.
In case your area is prone to water scarcity during the peak of summer, you need to stockpile sufficient water to properly care for your plants.
Keep Plants in Shade
Providing shade is a simple but effective way to protect garden plants during a heatwave. Shade helps the soil to stay cooler, retain moisture for longer periods, and also prevents the scorching of the leaves.
The question is, how to shade plants properly?
Ideally, you should use a material that allows at least some part of the sunlight to reach the plant. The degree of shade can vary between 25 to 90% depending on the type of plant.
Lighter fabrics can be draped over the plants while heavier fabrics can be placed over the garden area by using hooks or stakes.
You can also plan to erect a large canopy over the entire garden area if possible. Make sure the structure permits sufficient airflow that allows the heat to escape. However, strong winds can make the soil lose water faster. Using a fence or a hedge as windbreakers in combination with a shade is also a good idea.
Potted plants can be moved directly under existing shaded garden areas. Placing smaller pots or seedlings under the shade of bigger plants with a stronger root system is also effective.
Plants are more distressed by a change in the soil temperature as it affects their roots. Ask any veteran gardener the question, ”How do I keep plants cool?” One common answer you will get is mulching.
Mulch is an extra layer of material placed on the topsoil that keeps the soil temperature stable and also prevents evaporation. It keeps the soil wet for longer periods and reduces the overall water requirement.
Pick a light-colored mulch material that will reflect the sunlight. Around 2 inches of mulch can be placed around the roots or across the entire garden bed. Organic mulch like grass clippings, small bark or wood chips, straw, shredded leaves, or pine needles can do a great job of keeping the soil cool.
To reduce water loss during a heatwave, plants can roll up their leaves or stop producing new flowers. You may feel adding some fertilizers can give your plants a boost, but in reality, that is not a good idea.
The fact is, a sudden increase in nutrients can trigger a growth phase in the plant. However, to process fertilizers, plants need water. When temperatures are above 90°F and water is in shortage, this can lead to damaging consequences for the plant.
To protect your garden during a heatwave, do not fertilize and concentrate on proper watering. It is also best to stop any chemical treatment for plant disease and insect infestations during a heatwave.
We suggest you promote soil fertility during the other seasons by adding the right macro and micronutrients. These include potassium, phosphorus, calcium, boron, manganese, and selenium. Adding these elements can help the plants perform better in the heat and show more heat stress tolerance.
Keep the Soil Undisturbed
Digging the soil during a heatwave can make it worse for your plants. This can release the trapped moisture from the soil and dry it out faster. Other acts like planting or weeding can also have the same effect. For proper care for plants in hot weather, keep the soil undisturbed during the hottest period.
Harvesting and Weeding
One of the best ways to prepare your plants for the heatwave is to complete the harvesting before temperatures rise. Flowers and fruits take a lot of toll on the energy reserves of a plant. By removing ripe and almost-ripe fruits and veggies, you let the plants conserve resources. Thus they are better equipped to tackle the heatwave.
Other than that, you can also complete weeding before the heat reaches its peak. Weeds compete with the plants in deriving water and nutrients from the soil. Removing them will ensure more resources are available for the plants.
However, pruning is not advised during an ongoing heatwave. Removal of leaves and branches will expose previously shaded parts of the plant to light. This can result in sunburns.
So these are some steps you can take to protect garden plants during a heatwave.
Gardening during the hottest part of summer can be a challenging task. With these tips, you can effectively reduce the overall heat stress on your plants and keep them safe. Surely, the plants will love it when you take the right care of them.
Lastly, make sure you take proper protection while gardening in the heat. Avoid moving out in the hottest hours. Also, do not forget to use sunscreen and wear a hat for protection. Only when you remain safe, can you keep your plants safe.