Wait!! Slow down!! Heading into the month where summer officially joins us, makes me feel that summer is already going by too fast. Hot weather hit too soon and a lot of my spring garden chores are still waiting for me.
While we can come inside when we get too hot, the poor plants have to stand outside in the elements 24/7. When it gets too hot, they respond by slowing down and reacting in abnormal ways. I don’t blame them.
Our gardens got off to a slow start this spring with the intense heat that showed up to introduce us to garden season. While the plants are blooming, you might have found that the fruit isn’t setting. This is particularly troublesome in tomatoes.
When temperatures rise above 85-90 degrees, the pollen becomes unviable. In areas with high humidity, the pollen gets so sticky it isn’t able to move easily, so it doesn’t fall or get blown around. In our arid climate the pollen gets so dry it can’t stick to the female part of the flower (stigma) and pollination doesn’t occur. In our dry climate, misting your plants and then shaking them to move the pollen might be slightly helpful when the temperatures climb. This lack of pollination problem is more likely in heirloom varieties than with hybrid types. Some heirlooms won’t start setting fruit until late summer or early fall and the plant will end the season full of green tomatoes.
Plant breeders are working on plants that can tolerate extreme heat. Until then, what can we do?
We can focus on plants that love heat, like squash, melons, sweet potatoes and lima beans to name a few. When purchasing plants or seed we can also look for varieties that are listed as heat tolerant.
Keep your plants well-watered. Large leafed plants like squash might wilt during the heat of the day while other types of leaves might roll. This is their way of conserving moisture. Normally, the plants will revive in the evening when it cools down. If they don’t, they might need additional water. Check your soil before applying more, as sometimes overwatering mimics under watering.
Mulch! An organic mulch holds in moisture and regulates soil temperature. Plus, it keeps some of those pesky weed seeds from germinating.
Avoid surrounding your plants with materials that hold heat, like stones, brick or ‘perma-bark”. The reflective heat scorches the underneath sides of the leaves. The weight of the stone also compresses the soil making it harder for the plant’s roots to do their work.
Plants growing on a trellis will lose moisture faster than a plant growing on the ground because the leaves will transpire more moisture in that situation.Keep your garden weeded so there is less competition for the moisture in your garden.
Keep your garden weeded so there is less competition for the moisture in your garden.
We can always offer shade. A card table placed over the plants or turned on its side to provide some protection works well in the garden. A canopy of shade cloth is also helpful in the 100+ degree days.Before we know it, the weather will have changed again, the garden will be growing by leaps and bounds, we’ll be harvesting as fast as we can and the autumn equinox will be knocking on our door. Until then, Happy Gardening!
Before we know it, the weather will have changed again, the garden will be growing by leaps and bounds, we’ll be harvesting as fast as we can and the autumn equinox will be knocking on our door. Until then, happy gardening!