I don’t know about you but in our part of the country we have been experiencing 100+ degree days during July and I anticipate August to be as brutal. Thus we have been getting a number of calls regarding how to deal with turf and plants during this heat. Here are a few simple suggestions to consider.
- Water deeply and not every day: During heatwaves, it is best to water your plants deeply instead of watering them every day. This encourages deep root growth and helps the plants withstand the extreme temperatures. If using a sprinkler system, just check the soil after 10 minutes of watering, if you can push a 4” screwdriver into the soil with some degree of ease, it is getting enough water. You can use a bowl or cup to measure the amount of water, usually about an inch per watering is enough, but check to make sure. ( If in doubt, soil meters are inexpensive and an easy way to measure.) If not, increase the timing. I water 3 times a week during August. Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday night. I generally mow on Friday.
- Watering times: I prefer to water late in the evening. The plants and turf are more open and active after midnight and it gives the plants time to take up water and settle in before the sun comes up. Some folks prefer early morning which is fine too, but if you prefer early morning, do so before the sun comes up and begins to draw the water to the surface.
- Use mulch: Adding a layer of mulch to your garden beds can help protect the plants from the hot summer weather. Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, prevents evaporation, and keeps the soil temperature more stable. Light-colored mulch or compost can be used to reflect the sun's heat and prevent evaporation, but if you’re watering properly the color of the mulch won’t have that much effect. Make sure you turn over your mulch once a month so it doesn’t become compacted and get mold underneath. Plants need air to be healthy.
- Provide shade: Offering shade to your plants can help protect them from direct sunlight and reduce the stress caused by high temperatures. You can use shade cloth, umbrellas, or even temporary structures to create shade for your plants during the hottest parts of the day. If your plants or trees are exposed to the western sun, protect them with shade and if they are young trees consider a burlap type tape wrap to protect young trunks from spaulding. And make sure you water the trees at least once a week with a deep water soaker to get to the roots. Trees also need some water in the winter time occasionally even if they appear dormant.
- Avoid pruning and transplanting: It is advised not to prune trees and shrubs during extreme heat as it can further stress the plants. Similarly, avoid planting or transplanting new plants during this time as they may struggle to establish themselves in such harsh conditions.
- Avoid fertilizing during extreme heat: It is recommended to avoid fertilizing your plants during a heatwave. Fertilizers can stimulate growth, which can be stressful for plants already struggling in high temperatures. Instead, focus on providing adequate water and maintaining plant health. Nitrogen fertilizers can burn and damage the plants and turf if not watered amply before and after application. I would wait until the weather and soil cools down.
- Applying Liquid Soil Aerator: I normally try to aerate in early June to allow the soil time to absorb the food for the microbial colonies and time to go to work, then wait until September before applying again. Liquid aerators add food, nutrients and break up the soil which allows it to breathe giving the turf roots a healthier environment. Good aeration means less water too.
Remember, these tips may vary depending on the specific plant species and local climate conditions. It's always a good idea to research and tailor your care practices based on the needs of your plants. If in doubt, reach out to your local county agricultural extension office or garden center, they are always ready and willing to help you have a successful lawn and garden.