If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the garden! (Easier said than done, right?) It may be hard to resist a sunny day out in the back yard no matter what the season, but you (and your plants) have to be smart when you’re out spending countless hours under the blazing sun. It’s crucial that you’re well-aware of the dangers of heat stress.

Gardening in the heat

Keep a cool source of water handy at all times – for you and your plants.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Gardening in the heat: drink water

Always make sure to stay hydrated.

Photo Credit: Sarah Landicho

Want to garden in the heat? Play it cool!

For starters, I wear a hat when I’m gardening in the heat, and I highly recommend this fashion accessory. But don’t just toss on that old baseball cap that’s been collecting dust in the back of a closet. There are hats designed especially for gardening now, with longer brims that keep the sun off your face and neck. Select a hat made with fabric that “breathes,” allowing trapped air to escape.

Keep that water jug filled and at hand. Recycle an empty water bottle – refill it with water, freeze it, then take it with you when you go garden in the heat. This will give you a cool source of water for a longer period of time. (For a refreshing twist, add a slice or two of lemon – yum!)

Most of all, don’t overdo it. I find that early morning, when it’s cooler, is the best time to work in the garden. And use some good ol’ common sense: When it’s too hot to be outdoors, stay indoors. Hey, those gardening chores aren’t going anywhere!

Unfortunately, your plants aren’t going anywhere either.

Just like you, those plants need extra attention in the heat. Summer usually means less rainfall, so it’s up to you to water wisely, and it’s still not too late to start good practice! Here are some tips to help you save water and keep your plants happy:

Use mulch (wood chips, grass clippings and shredded bark are just a few choices). Mulches conserve soil moisture and stabilize soil temperatures. Two to three inches of mulch is really all you need. And when you mulch, keep it 4-6 inches away from trunks and stems of plants. Another perk: Mulching the garden also reduces the need to weed! Yea! (Weeds out-compete plants and rob moisture from the soil.)

The take-home message: Water wisely. Generally 1 to 1½ inches of water per week is adequate for most ornamentals – perennials, lawns, trees and shrubs. (Of course, there are exceptions – some plants may require more or less water during the growing season.) And when you do water, long soakings are preferable to short dousings.