Summer Gardening – Tips for Beating the Heat
Ask Master Gardener Volunteer JoAnn Green
Whew! It was a hot July, and the start of August looks like it will be about the same. I am not long in the garden during the height of summer; I just cannot take the heat and humidity even in the shade! This month I will write about the few tasks I tackle in an attempt to keep the landscape under control.
Timing is Everything
The coolest part of the day is right at sunrise. And the sun is still coming up around 7:00 a.m. in August! I aim for 8:00 or 8:30 a.m. at the latest to begin any outside activities. I also plan to finish up by 10:00 or 10:30 a.m. I even set a timer on my phone to remind me to take breaks and drink water. Otherwise I get so focused on a task I tend to forget these necessities! The one task I will do a little later in the morning is (click on green word for more info) MOWING and this is out of courtesy to my neighbors. I made a rule to hold off mowing until 10:30 a.m. which also allows morning dew to dry and I can still be inside by 11:30 at the latest.
I usually do a walk around in my yard the first of each week. For those of you who work outside the home, this might be on a day off. I sometimes take a pad
and pencil and jot down notes about what needs to be done in the landscape. Later, when I am inside where it is cool, I will review my notes to determine what tasks need to be done and when.
My system is to categorize my tasks into what Must be done, what Should be done, and what is Nice or Fun to do. Priority tasks are those that Must be done, like taking immediate action for a disease or pest problem. If it has not rained for a week to 10 days, then irrigating the lawn and landscape beds becomes a priority. Everything else needs to wait until the priority tasks are done. I include my walk around time as a priority task each week.
For me, some Should do tasks include mowing, (click on blue word for more info) FERTILIZING, and edging around landscape beds. If I am unable to get to any of these tasks during the week, these tasks could wait until the following week and I will not be too far behind. Should do tasks could become priorities when I put them off too many times.
When I am finished with the first two levels of priorities and still have energy, I can do the fun stuff! Deadheading spent flower heads, or (click on orange word for more info) PRUNING an ornamental shrub is rewarding to me. For others, a Fun or Nice activity might be adding new or different plants to the landscape. Just remember that tender plants will need lots of care to help them get established in the summer heat. So, adding tender plants will add to your Must or Should do tasks. Maybe a better option is waiting until September or October to add new plants when the temperatures are a little cooler. A Nice to do activity during the summer could be visiting a nursery or garden center to get ideas for fall planting. Take photos of plants in bloom so you will remember what they look like in the fall. Plants might even be on sale later in the fall.
When out in the yard in (click on red word for more info) HOT WEATHER, wear light colored and light weight clothing. It is best to wear closed-toe shoes when walking in the yard. Save sandals and flip flops for leisure time.
Be sure to hydrate before, during, and after your gardening activities. Know your medical conditions when choosing the type and amounts of fluids to drink. Water is always your best option.
I wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. (click on pink word for more info) SUNSCREEN is a must, even if you are working in the shade. If you have a large umbrella or portable tent, I recommend you position this for the period of time you will be working in sunny areas.
The mosquitoes have been pretty bad where I live, so I found mosquito netting online and have that over my hat to cover my head and face. That way I am not constantly swatting at bugs while I am working. Insect repellent is my summer perfume!
Know Signs of Heat Related Illness
One of the most important things to remember when doing any type of outdoor activities is signs and symptoms of too much heat. If you are not aware of how your body is reacting to extreme heat conditions, serious symptoms can quickly creep up on you!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2017) has good information about heat exhaustion and heat stroke on their website:
(Click on link image below to visit: CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
I hope you find the information useful and doable during these dog days of summer. Safe and happy gardening to all!
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