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Gardening During a Heat Wave

During the hottest summer days, the best thing to do is to do as little as possible.

It's hot, really hot. So, what's the best way to garden during a heat wave? Do what comes naturally: As little as possible.

Here are a few things to avoid.

Don't fertilize.  Plant growth slows during a heat wave. Don't mistake this as a call for more nutrients. Fertilized plants require more water, and over-fertilizing can stress plants that already have enough to cope with.

Don't prune.  Pruning should be left until the temperatures drop. Anything that causes plants to lose moisture is best avoided.

Don't over-water.  Too much water can damage plants. Don't water every day. The exception to this, of course, is potted plants, which will need water at least once a day.

Your garden will be extra thirsty during heat waves, but how and when you water is important.

  • Water first thing in the morning, as close to dawn as possible. Watering during the heat of the day can damage plants.
  • Water the roots, not the leaves. Use a hose to apply water to the soil, not a sprinkler that sprays water into the air. On hot days, much of this water evaporates before it hits the ground.
  • Water deeply, so that the water gets down to the roots. Gardens require 1 to 2 inches of water a week. A light sprinkle is unlikely to get water where it's most needed.
  • Don't water in the evening. This is especially important with plants that are prone to fungal infections, such as tomatoes and eggplant.
  • Adding mulch can help the soil retain moisture and your plants survive the heat.

When you water in the morning, take a few moments to pull some weeds. They compete with your plants for water and nutrients.

But follow your instincts and leave the hoe or rake in the garage until the temperatures drop. Good for the plants and good for you, too.

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