The Heat is On: Keys to Smart Summer Gardening

Summer is a great time to work in the yard or garden, but the experienced gardener knows there are real dangers for both people and plants if the realities of the hottest months of the year are not respected. Following some basic rules related to heat and water will ensure that your summertime gardening is both safe and enjoyable. So be smart and have fun this summer by following these simple guidelines.

Let’s start with the most basic rules of working outside safely any time of year, but especially in the summer when the intensity of the sun is greatest.

To minimize direct exposure, always wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim, and apply plenty of sunscreen. Unprotected skin can burn in just a few minutes, so be sure to reapply sunscreen often, especially if you are sweating.

Next, wear long sleeves and long pants that are lightweight and light-colored. While working on your tan may be tempting, keeping your skin safe and healthy will serve you much better in the long run.

Like your plants and flowers, you need more water when it’s hot outside. If you feel thirsty, then you are already playing catch-up. Keep a water bottle with you and learn the symptoms of heat-related illness such as dizziness, cramping or weakness. If you feel the heat getting the best of you, go inside immediately and cool down.

Try to do your digging and weeding in the morning or evening , but if you must challenge the midday sun, take breaks and cool off often. If you can schedule an after-dinner gardening session, use a safe insect repellent to control the mosquitos in full hunting mode.

Your yard and plants need protection, too

Just like us, the heat can have a serious impact on our lawn and plants. Here are some ideas to allow them to thrive during the summer months.

Water in the early morning to avoid losing the battle against humidity and evaporation. Also, waterings should be deep and infrequent to help promote strong root growth, with a goal of one inch of water every week through the combination of rain and watering. Consider using mulch to cool the soil and hold the moisture in your flower-beds.

The extreme heat is an absolutely great excuse to avoid mowing the lawn. Keep your grass as high as you can without getting the evil eye from the neighbors – mow less often and with the blade up a notch or two. Taller grass will stand up better to the sun and grow deeper, stronger roots to help next summer as well.

Again, like people, some plants are simply more heat tolerant than others. Examples of garden plants that are the last to wilt under pressure are okra, butter beans, cherry tomatoes and watermelon. Add some color to your yard with heat-resistant annuals and perennials such as Black-Eyed Susans, Daylilies, Hibiscus, Zinnias and Pentas.

And no need to worry about your spruces and pines – they will be just fine.

On a less happy note, most weeds are extremely heat resistant, so the need to destroy them is not likely to diminish during the summer months. The same applies for certain garden pests – especially spider mites. Take your hose off the lawn for a couple minutes to blast the plant’s leaves and seriously discourage their return.

Can you still enjoy being in your yard this summer? Absolutely. Just be smart about it and remember to listen to your body and keep an eye on your plants.