Preparing Your Garden for a Spring Heat Wave
While we’ve had a fairly mild spring so far, forecasts are calling for unseasonably high temperatures later this week. A sudden spike in temperature can be challenging for garden plants at any time of year, but particularly in the spring. The heat may be too much for tiny seedlings, newly sown seed beds, and recently transplanted plants. Even with watering, bare soil surfaces can become so hot that seedling roots—which haven’t had a chance to fully develop—may dry up and die. Newly emerging leaves of perennials, shrubs and trees are not yet adapted to hot weather and may be damaged by a spring heat wave. Prepare your garden for a spring heat wave by using these techniques:
Provide shade to newly sown containers and garden beds. Cover any unsprouted beds with fabric (burlap, old towels or bedsheets) or cardboard. Check daily for signs of growth and replace the opaque coverings with shade cloth or other physical barrier.
Shade cool weather crops and new transplants
Cool season favourites like peas, lettuce and other leafy greens—as well as all newly transplanted starts—are especially susceptible to heat damage. Provide shade by moving containers out of direct sun and using barriers (such as lightweight garden seating) to shade crops. Use horticultural shade cloth if you’ve got it, or make do with other physical barriers (we like using overturned plastic lattice-work seedling trays to shade small seedlings). Lightweight fabric can also work if you avoid covering plants tightly: make sure they still have airflow. You may want to even take the covers off after the heat of the day subsides.
Container plantings are particularly vulnerable during a spring heat wave. Move containers together (ideally in the shade) to reduce evaporation.
Postpone new plantings
Wait for cooler weather to sow seeds. Keep any transplants, including vegetable starts, in the shade until temperatures drop.
Mulch to preserve water
Spread a 2″ layer of mulch over established garden beds to reduce evaporation and protect plants’ roots.
Watering during a heat wave
Water perennial beds deeply, ideally first thing in the morning. For containers and beds with vulnerable plants, you may need to water twice daily.
Remember, shade and water will go a long way towards protecting your garden during a spring heat wave. Preparing now will save you heartache later!
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