Protect your Plants from Heat Stress this Summer!
No matter where you live, there comes a time every summer when the heat becomes barely bearable. You just want to relax, sit in the shade, and sip your favorite ice-cold beverage. But your plants are hot and thirsty, too! They need your attention.
If this sounds like a familiar, frustrating scenario to you, donít despair! Even though too much heat and too little water can add up to too few blooms, there are ways to help your plants survive beautifully; even during the dog days of summer.
High temperatures alone rarely kill plants. Although plants often go dormant in response to temperature extremes, they will survive. But the combination of heat and dryness can be deadly.
Lack of water will cause your plantsí leaves and flowers to wilt, and their stems and roots to wither and shrink. Water, which constitutes 90 percent or more of a plantsí weight, is especially vital during hot summer days. The movement of water up through the roots, to the stems, and out the leaves Ė called transpiration Ė not only brings nutrients to the plant from the soil, it also cools the leaves on hot days through evaporation.
How and when you water during the hottest days of the season determines how efficiently your plants will use this critical raw material.
Watering Do's and Doníts
- Do water in the morning, before the sun gets strong and speeds evaporation.
- Donít water at night. If your soil stays damp too long, like overnight, it can lead to root rot.
- Do water deeply and less frequently. An inch of water, once a week, is recommended under most circumstances. Deep watering encourages deep root growth, important for survival during extended periods of heat, drought or neglect.
- Donít water lightly every day. This encourages shallow roots.
- Do water at the base of plants whenever possible. Use soaker hoses, trenches, or flood irrigation to direct the water where it will do the most good.
- Donít sprinkle from overhead when things heat up. Although it is easier and offers uniform coverage, overhead watering allows moisture to evaporate or be carried away be the wind. Plants are also more susceptible to leaf spot or mildew when water droplets accumulate on their foliage. And, when the summer sun is really intense, water droplets can act as magnifiers, actually burning leaves and flowers!
Finding ways to use water more efficiently is not only ecologically responsible, it can also save some gardeners money by lowering their monthly water bills. Here are three ways to make sure precious water is not wasted:
- Weeding: Eliminate competition that might sap your soil of moisture.
- Mulching: Retard evaporation, cool the soil and prevent weeds with a thick layer of organic, inorganic or man-made mulch.
- Pruning: Reduce your plantsí demand for water by removing excess growth.
Revitalize and EnergizeÖFertilize!
Repeated watering may actually leach nutrients from the soil. But you can give your soil a boost with the proper feeding program. Learning the individual nutritional needs of your plants and testing your soil periodically will help you determine how and when to fertilize. A fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in potassium might be beneficial. Youíll want more potassium, because it encourages root growth, and less nitrogen, because it increases top growth, creating the need for even more water.
Plan Ahead for Next Summer
If itís too late to alter this yearís planting scheme, you can look for ways to conserve water and save your plants from heat stress next year. Pay attention to where the sun and wind are strongest in your landscape. Plants growing in full sun require more water than those growing in shade, and winds can actually rob your soil of moisture. When you plot your landscape for next year, think about ways you might create shade and windbreaks with taller plants and strategically placed trellises, arbors, fences, or walls.
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