How to Care for Your Garden in High Temperatures

— Written By and last updated by Elisabeth Purser
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Southern summers are hot and humid. People with gardens often wonder how they can keep their gardens alive during the intense summer heat. Even plants that thrive in heat, like tomatoes and peppers, may require extra care during a heat wave. Here are some tips to help you protect your garden and harvest during a heat wave.

Mulch  – Mulch retains moisture and keeps soil temperatures cooler. Remember the root system of your plants are just as important as the top growth. Proper mulching a great way to reduce stress on root systems and keep plants productive. When mulching add about 3 to 4 inches of straw, leaves or wood mulch to the soil surface around your plants.

Consistent Watering – Consistent watering is essential during the heat of summer. Plants that are being watered sporadically through our summers have a higher chance of having issues with fruit development, bolting or reduced growth due to the stress of insufficient water. Check your soil moisture daily and water as your soil begins to dry. You can check your soil for water needs by feeling the soil one to two inches deep. If you feel moisture below the surface you can wait to water. Be sure not to apply water so often that your soil stays waterlogged. Over watering can cause root rot, disease issues and poor growth due to a lack of oxygen in the soil.

Water at the Right Time – Water your plants in the morning when evaporation and temperatures are lower. This will give your plants time to take up moisture before the hottest part of the day. Make sure you water down to wet the root zone of the plant (at least 6” to 8”). Applying a high volume of water with a hose in short watering times can give the illusion that you have applied sufficient water. But often times, water runs off and never infiltrates the soil to the desired depth. Applying water with drip irrigation, or a soaker hose, allows water to move into the soil slowly reaching roots deeper in the soil profile.