Garden Tips for the Garden State – Summer Heat
This week we saw record-breaking temperatures to kick off the dog days of summer. Was this just a taste of what is coming as the summer drags on? Hopefully not, but if it is, here are some tips to protect your hard work in the lawn and in your garden.
Cut Your Lawn High
I don't mean while under the influence of anything, that would be dangerous and counterproductive.
I'm talking about cutting your grass no lower then 3 inches. I know this is hard for most people as it means cutting more often and can be problematic when it won't stop raining. However, it makes a huge difference when the heat hits as most lawns in New Jersey are cool season lawns, containing mixes of bluegrass, rye and fescue.
Cool season lawns stop growing and go dormant as a means of surviving the heat. This is when you stop cutting the lawn and because you have kept it above 3 inches, it wont need to be watered in order to survive the summer. The roots have grown deeper and store more energy to be used in the fall for it's miraculous comeback. This is when the weeds will get a hold on your short cut lawn as well. Keeping the grass high will keep the weeds down once the grass stops growing.
Let it go brown, and don't worry, it would take a severe drought to kill it permanently and if that is the case, then you should be conserving water anyway.
Set up drip irrigation around the base of your veggies. This is especially important for fruiting crops such as zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants or any other plant which has to supply water to help form it's fruit. The trick is to water for a good 2-3 hours in the morning before the day really heats up. Turn on your drip hose and let the soil get good and soaked before 10am. Depending on how hot it is and how much rain you get, you might need to do this every 3-4 days.
Make sure you let the soil dry out between soakings. This will encourage deep root growth as they will follow the water down as it leaves and dries out. Watering daily, even in a drought, will keep the roots of any plant small and utterly useless.
Take Some Time Off
That's right, I'm telling you to just stay inside and enjoy that sweet, sweet AC.
Many of the gardening chores such as applying fertilizers, or horticultural oils, pruning, planting... etc are actually a terrible idea in the heat of summer. When the day heats up, the things we generally think of as garden TLC can actually cause more harm then good.
Horticultural oil and fertilizers can burn plants and pruning removes leaves which help to cool down a hot plant. (Pruning really should only be done in the fall for many reasons, but that's a whole other post).
The one exception here is weeding. Unfortunately, weeding never stops. The reason weeds exist is because they are survivors. If you think about it, weeds simply favor survival treats over qualities which appeal to our human senses, such as beauty or flavor. Get the weeding done early in the morning and then get out of the sun.
Add Some Shade
Cooler season crops such as cabbage, lettuce, kale, spinach and beets could use a little help when the summer heats up. Simply add some shade in the form of a dark mesh screen, taller crops, or trees/plants which will block or reduce direct sunlight from noon on. These plants that suffer from scorching will thrive in the summer months with less sun and more shade.
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