How to keep your plants from wilting in the summer heat
By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
While it is not uncommon to see plants wilting and dying in the summer heat, there are a couple of ways to preserve the plants' health before it's too late.
First and foremost, the best way to help your garden survive hot weather is by providing adequate moisture, which also means not to drown your plants by overwatering.
"In the heat of the summer, the best way to water efficiently is to use drip irrigation. All of the garden centers and home improvement stores have kits and additional parts," said Dr. Gary Bachman, GRP, CPH extension/research professor of horticulture for Mississippi State University.
Avoid watering a plant's leaves to minimize disease risk. If you have a sprinkler, put it on a timer for the early morning or dusk hours, so it will dry quickly.
"Watering in the morning is best as it allows the water to move into the roots zone and getting the plant hydrated before the heat of the day," Bachman said.
Stephanie Huckestein, instructor at Indoor Plants Hahn Horticulture Garden at Virginia Tech, said plants need more water in the summer than other times of the year.
"Plants more readily transpire (a plant or leaf to give off water vapor) and respire during the hot summer months, so more water is needed for most plants," Huckestein said.
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Many home gardeners like growing plants in containers, and it is even more important to make sure the containers are well hydrated each day.
When selecting a location to put a garden, it is best to choose a location with morning sun and afternoon shade. The afternoon hours of sunlight can be very harsh on plants.
"Not all plants are tolerant of shade. The afternoon sun is more intense than morning sun, so if a plant needs part sun, it is best to provide that sun during the morning hours, so [it's] better to locate them in an east exposure instead of a west exposure," Huckestein said.
There are many plants native to warmer zones that do well in summer weather, and they are able to tolerate hotter conditions.
Experts recommend spacing out plants so they do not compete for water.
Pulling weeds helps the plants because the weeds compete for nutrients and water. Once the weeds are gone, gardeners should add some extra mulch or pine straw to keep heat out and moisture in.
"Applying a layer of mulch no deeper than 2 or 3 inches will help conserve precious soil moisture and cool the soil during the hottest parts of the day. Remember that mulching while conserving moisture does not negate the need to water consistently," Bachman said.
A shade cloth could help some plants but may hurt other plants that require more sunlight. If you don't want to install a shade cloth in your garden, give your plants some extra nutrients.
"Coffee grounds, fertilizers and compost add necessary nutrients for optimal plant health and a healthy plant is more tolerant of adverse conditions than one that is not so healthy," Huckestein said.
Not all plants have the same fertilizer requirements, so check the plant's requirements before applying fertilizer.
Bachman said it is very important to add slow release fertilizer, like Osmocote, as this will help establish a good nutritional base before the heat of the summer.
"There aren’t really any fertilizers that you can apply in the hot weather months, except for using some liquid feed to maintain good growth and flowering, like Miracle Grow, during regular watering," Bachman said.
According to Bachman, one of the hardest situations for the home gardener is a flowering plant that starts to decline. Bachman said he gets numerous frantic calls asking how to save those type of plants.
"My advice is to remove and use this as an opportunity to try something new. This saves the home gardener from the angst of worrying about the plant," Bachman said. "Now this advice is for flowering annuals and such that are readily replaced, not trees and shrubs."
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