The recent hot and dry summer weather has had a ‘dormant-full’ effect on stressed cool-season turf grass areas, but the opposite is true for well-hydrated warm-season garden plants – with special emphasis on the words ‘stressed’ and ‘well-hydrated’. Sunshine and heat are ideal for healthy warm-season garden gems like tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, squash and so forth, but it is vital that growing garden plants enter into hot summer temperatures in a healthy state. Here are a few tips to ensure your garden plants thrive during the dog days of summer.
- Keep plants ‘well-hydrated’ – but be careful to not over-water them! It is true that plants use more water during the hot dry summer weather, but remember that plant roots need access to air in addition to moisture. Totally saturate the garden soil and then allow the top few inches of garden soil to dry-out before the next irrigation event. Use a little logic based on the maturity of the plant. Newly germinated seedlings need more consistent moisture, but as the root system develops, deep and less frequent irrigation water may be more appropriate for more mature plants. Also keep in mind that different types of garden plants have different depths of root systems – for example, tomato plants may grow roots 12 inches deep whereas basil plants may grow shallower root depths.
- Make sure to fertilize garden plants according to their individual needs. Many inorganic fertilizers are salts and therefore, if applied inappropriately, may cause stress to garden plants. Many organic fertilizers have a low ‘burn-risk’ but should also be applied according to the individual needs of the garden plants. Always reference vegetable, herb, and fruit fact sheets before applying fertilizers to garden plants and remember to read and follow the information printed on the label of any product you choose to use.
- Keep garden areas free of weeds – or the next best thing to it. Weeds compete with garden plants for necessary resources like water, nutrients, and sunshine. By keeping garden areas ‘weed-free’, you are making sure your garden plants do not have to ‘duke-it-out’ with their greedy weedy neighbors for these vital resources.
- Be on the look-out for unwanted garden invaders. Slugs, snails, and earwigs –Oh My! Just stating the obvious, garden pests may cause stress to garden plants. Be on the look-out for and destroy potential habitat sites of unwanted garden pests, check out usu.edu.
- Routinely inspect garden irrigation systems. Irrigation controllers are a blessing and a curse. It is wonderful that we can program irrigation systems to water at 2 am in the morning, but this presents a problem when there is a leak or break in the system. We have all seen evidence of a broken irrigation head shooting-up water like a geyser! A leak or crack can cause big problems for garden plants in a short window of time. Routinely turn-on and inspect irrigation systems to make sure your garden plants are accessing the water they need to grow.
Do not forget to stay cool, drink plenty of water, and enjoy watching your garden grow!