While Indiana might not exactly be the hottest place in the world, our humid summers can certainly feel sultry and wreak havoc on plants and landscaping. As the rising temperatures take their toll, it can be frustrating to watch your well-tended lawn or garden turn brown and wilt.
The good news is that there are simple things you can do to get your vegetable gardens, perrennials, annuals, lawn, shrubs, and trees through stretches of extreme Midwestern summer. Here are our top tips for plant care in extreme heat.
In extreme heat, move your annuals and perennials that are in containers or hanging baskets in the shade (even if they are “full sun” varieties). Most pots are unable to retain moisture very long, due to their limited size. Water them daily, at minimum, and twice a day if temperatures rise to the high 90s or above. In addition:
- Water shade-loving plants like impatiens and begonias twice a day.
- If plants wilt at the end of the day, even if the soil is moist, lightly sprinkle them with water for a quick cool down and refresher.
- Hot soil is not healthy for plants, so apply mulch to keep the soil cool and moist.
There is little you can do to provide extra shade for your garden beds, so the best alternative is to keep your soil moist. If the soil remains moist at the root level, even if the surface is dry, your plants can survive. Make sure the layer of bed mulch is adequate (up to but no more than 3 inches). You can use wood bark or chips, compost, lawn clippings or leaves. Be aware that raised beds or sloped areas will dry out more quickly than level ground. Other tips include:
- Water even your shaded plants once a day.
- Watch closely for even the slightest of wilting, which is a sign that stress has already taken place.
- Water only in the morning or evening.
- Even heat loving plants like tomatoes or geraniums need to be protected. Rapid growth in extreme heat does not indicate that the plants are not stressed. Again, keep the soil moist and cool.
- Avoid applying fertilizer in heat, which can result in burned plants. If you must fertilize, use a fish emulsion applied when watering.
It’s a myth that you should just allow your lawn to go dormant during the summer. While the grass itself might revive once it cools down, heat- and drought-tolerant weeds will thrive. In other words, you’ll just end up with a very weedy lawn.
Hopefully you are already keeping your lawn strong and healthy with fertilizer. In the beginning of summer, you can apply a light dose of lower nitrogen fertilizer just before a good rain or watering. In addition, you can:
- Raise your lawn mower blade as temperatures rise, usually two or three times in stages during the summer.
- In peak season, maintain your grass at 3” long, which helps shade the soil, keeping it cooler and moist.
- Water your lawn, but avoid waste. First, target full-sun areas, slopes and grass that touches hot surfaces, like pavement, stones or blacktop.
- Water enough to soak the roots (an hour of steady sprinkling should penetrate the soil as much as 3-6”.
- Water early in the day to avoid evaporation that will cause wilt or burn.
- Avoid night watering, as plants stay wet longer, which can lead to mildew, pests and disease.
- Always follow any local drought and watering restrictions.
Taking care of your lawn and landscaping is crucial during summer months, especially during droughts or stretches of high heat. If you would like to know more about this topic, or if you need help, contact us. We can keep your outdoor space healthy and looking great.