What a summer it has been! We have had record-breaking temperatures and humidity over a number of days and next-to-nothing rain, if any at all. The weatherman says there is more to come. Here are some ideas that have worked for folks who garden in the heat.
Since the garden has no air conditioning, early morning and late evening are the best times to do the chores that need to be done. If the chores can wait until the hot spell is over, take a break. If you believe you need to stay on top of the details, or lose the garden altogether, decide what works for you and your garden and go to it. How gardens are worked is a personal choice; only you know what the right fit is for you.
Gardens need to be enjoyed, otherwise the gardener becomes overwhelmed and may decide that the “gardening thing” isn’t for them. Slow and easy wins the in the garden race. Consistency, over time, building on the skills you develop, will give enjoyment and boost your confidence level to continue, or go even further in your garden plans. Be kind to yourself. You are the only critic that matters in your garden.
Wear something cold and wet. Old bath towels that are moistened with cold water, rung out and worn around the neck, or placed over the top of the head, really help. A hat with a brim can still be worn over the towel. Several cold, wet towels are even better. They allow you to cool while working and when resting. If the cold doesn’t stay cold long enough, roll some ice into the towel folds and see if that lasts long enough to get the garden chores done.
Take frequent rests where you sit in the shade and drink. Water is best, but if you have a favorite, drink that. Go lightly on, or simply forego, the caffeine and alcohol, as they tend to dry you out rather than hydrate you. Fresh fruits and veggies taste good in the shade, too. If you have them cut up and ready in the refrigerator, they make a good snack for any gardener. Non-alcoholic Bloody Marys, with celery and a touch of seasoning, can make the rest break a party in the shade. Frozen or fresh fruit, cut up and placed in lemonade with ice cubes, is refreshing too. Treat yourself well. You work hard in the garden!
Acquire attire that breathes and dries out easily; it will help you feel cooler. Breathable fabrics are now used in everything from underwear to shirts and hats. And, remember: Generous fitting clothing allows for easy movement and will be very comfortable.
Always wear gloves and a hat with a brim. After donning garden clothes, apply sunscreen to exposed areas and bug repellent all over. If there are ticks in your area, socks, boots and long pants, with the bottoms tucked into your boots, are recommended. Nothing will ruin a garden manicure faster than having to deal with pesky bugs. For those who are fashion conscious, boots, gloves, pants, hats — everything you wear to garden — can be color coordinated or otherwise matched; just about anything you can imagine is out there for you to wear, so you will still make a statement out in the garden. If you group garden, everyone masks up, no exceptions! Enjoy garden couture.
After weeding, watering the garden is necessary, especially with hot weather and no rain. If you have soaker hoses, or can purchase soaker hoses, that will save you a lot of outside time. The soaker hose can be placed around the needy plants. You simply turn the water on and very slowly the water goes into the soil that surrounds the plant. There are many variations of timers that may be placed on the hose, to control the amount of time the hose lets water out and, on some of them, even the amount of water that flows out the hose. Just read what the product does and follow the directions. Without soaker hoses you will have to hold the hose, or set the hose into a sprinkler device that sits on the ground and sprays and rotates the water throughout the garden or bed. You will have to watch and see if there are any spots that get left out of the water pattern and adjust the device accordingly.
If you are having a hard time keeping the soil moist, even with watering, try using mulch. After weeding, spread two to three inches or more of mulch over the bed, then water. The mulch helps hold the moisture in the soil longer. The soaker hose can lay on top of the mulch, or better yet it can be embedded in the mulch. It will still work. The mulch is worth the price of purchase and time and toil in the amount of soil moisture it conserves for the plants. Try it and see.
Stay strong and garden on!
Master gardener Fredi Stangland resides in Medina.