With daytime temperatures in Baltimore climbing to over 100 degrees recently, many local gardens wilted in the heat. While our participation levels for July 2011 were slightly above average, many plants are experiencing heat stress. Some gardeners are resigned to losing this year’s plants, but there are still a few things you can do to help your flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and flowers survive heat stress.
Vegetables and flowers can fade quickly in extreme heat. Some plants like tomatoes will stop setting fruit and some annual flowers like snapdragons will stop blooming for a while. But, they will come back once the temperatures cool down. If flowering plants look, weak cut off the buds and blooms so the plant can put more energy into becoming stronger.
You may lose your more delicate plants but you can also try shading them. If you, by some miracle, still have lettuce you might just have to resign yourself to losing it. Lettuce is very heat sensitive and will bolt as soon as it gets warm. If you have special plants that you suspect are burning up, make a shade for them. Use something light like an old bed sheet and drape it over the plants during the hottest part of the day (early to mid-afternoon).
Watering, mulching and composting will help plants get back on their feet. We’ve had a fair amount of rain in Baltimore due to thunderstorms, but check your plants regularly because rain from strong downpours can simply run off instead of soaking in. This has no benefit at all. Thick layers of mulch will help conserve water. Side dressing plants with compost will help them get the nutrition they need to stay strong during the heat wave.
During a heat wave grass will turn brown or stop growing. Don’t worry about cutting it too frequently or it will be weakened. If your grass is brown it should come back once temperatures cool down and we get regular rain. Give trees and shrubs extra water.
Remember that you, as a gardener, are also susceptible to heat problems when you stay outside gardening too long. If you do need to be outside drink plenty of water and avoid heavy-duty projects. Try to work outside during the cooler parts of the day (morning or evening) and wear a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself.
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