Brace yourselves: The heat will be on and turned up this month. Expect consistent 90-plus temperatures for a good while.
My garden maintenance plans call for less time in the heat and more quality time in the garden getting done what needs to get done. Are you with me?
This time of year you should complete most of your outdoor chores early in the day. (This includes walking your dog as early as possible. Our dog, Ferris, doesn’t like the heat. He’s Irish by heritage and would be happy with 365 days of cooler temperatures.)
I hand-water containers and newly seeded areas twice a day (at least). We’re on our third sowing of basil. Several batches have already been harvested, processed with olive oil, labeled and frozen. Tomato sauces this winter will have the added benefit of almost fresh, homegrown basil. (Thinking of a cold winter right now doesn’t sound so bad.)
Tips on watering
If you are too busy to water in the morning, try doing it in the cool of evening. (There won’t be much cool, so just pretend.)
Container plantings can dry out quickly in high heat, even large containers. If watering is running off the top of the soil and not soaking in, try poking some holes in the soil with a large bolt or nail to create better drainage and aeration. The holes will not hurt the roots at all; more will grow in.
When watered thoroughly (until water comes out of the bottom) containers will be nice and hydrated through the night and the steamy temperatures of the next day.
If your containers are located on hot surfaces or near walls, make time before you’re off to work in the morning to give them a quick, thorough shower of water. Yes, overhead watering, which is the opposite of the normal recommendation to water at the base of plants. Overhead watering is a great way to prevent or fight off spider mites, which love many plants growing in hot conditions. A good dose of water easily splashes spider mites off the foliage and in these oven-like temperatures, your plants will be dry before you arrive at work. Do this every morning if you can.
Consider moving your sunniest hanging baskets to a location with half-day sun until temperatures cool down a bit.
Don’t freak out when you see plants wilt mid-day; that’s their response to the heat and is most common on large-leafed vegetables. If they are still nodding later in the day, they probably need watering. Check the soil 2 to 4 inches down. Or use a screwdriver near the plant. If it goes down fairly easily, then the rooting zone is probably moist; if you’re pushing it down, then it’s too dry!
If in doubt, purchase a $12 indoor plant meter and poke it down into the soil. Water deeply, about every 3-4 days, depending on how fast your soil…