No matter where you live, extreme summer weather conditions such as high winds or hurricanes, heat waves, drought or heavy rains, and hail damage can decimate a garden in mere minutes. If you have enough time to act, here are a few tips on how to prepare and protect your garden before the onslaught.
- Move hanging baskets and containers to sheltered areas where they cannot be blown away or broken apart.
- Cold frames, hoop tunnels, and small portable greenhouses should be moved or taken down if necessary and possible.
- Stake tall plants that may suffer breakage.
- Set up wind barriers around your garden beds by using heavy bags of potting soil, rocks, or sand.
- Place large buckets or cloches weighted with heavy rocks over individual plants to protect them.
- Large plants and shrubs may be wrapped in burlap and secured with twine.
- Protect young seedlings by laying row cover fabric over the top of them and securing the edges with landscape pegs. The fabric will keep the rain from hammering the soil and the tender plants.
- Hoop tunnel structures covered in row cover fabric made from polyethylene will slowly filter the raindrops to the bed, preventing damage. As a bonus, these structures can be left up during the entire growing season.
- Mulching beds with straw or other organic material will keep exposed soil from compacting from hard rain and may protect the root systems of plants.
- Staking tall plants may help them from breakage.
- Hail damage may be mitigated by overturning buckets and tubs on top of plants and weighing them down with rocks.
- Hoop tunnels covered with high-grade row cover fabric can be a lifesaver over raised bed vegetable gardens, providing a barrier to all but the extremely large (and rare) hailstones.
- Row cover fabric, burlap, or even tightly-woven bird netting can be staked in a teepee-like fashion over large beds or positioned over small trees, shrubs, climbers, and tall herbaceous perennials.
- Plants in containers should be tucked into sheltered areas beneath the deck or temporarily placed inside the garage.
- If you are growing plants in containers, move them to a shaded area to combat heat stress.
- In-ground and raised garden beds may be shaded by stretching a lightweight bedsheet or row cover fabric over stakes and securing it with twine.
- A hoop tunnel can once again be useful to cut back on the effects of extreme or prolonged heat.
- Water deeply and regularly during a heatwave, preferably during the cool of the morning instead of in the middle of the day. Be careful not to overwater, as this may encourage plant diseases.
- Apply mulch to the base of your plants to keep moisture near the roots of your plants. When selecting plants for your garden, try to purchase heat-tolerant varieties if this is a common occurrence in your region.
- Check out this list of drought-tolerant plants
- Drought is different from a heatwave because it lasts longer. When a drought is forthcoming, most plants start with their own conservation. Established plants will start going through a dormant period, so feeding is no longer required. Adding any fertilizer with a nitrogen base will cause flushing of new leaves, and interruption of photosynthesis “shutdown,” causing it to go into a reverse shock.
- Watering every day should be avoided. Plants can actually be “leaned out” in their watering—they will get used to having to conserve so that when the drought is actually occurring, they don’t need as much. You can see this in lawns as well—they’re not dying, just resting.
- Usually, leaves will droop, turn brown, and fall off. That is actually a good thing for that plant—it is stopping its cycle of uptake. But, most times, gardeners will feed more, water more, and the plant will die. The best practice is to help by selective pruning before, or at the onset of, drought to help in the dormancy period. The plant will actually let you know, as it rebounds.
- When the drought ends, depending on the seasonality of the plant, refurbish by watering every three days will help it along.
- There will be some excess blooms, because most plants as they stress, produce bloom for seed, to preserve the generations.
On the other side of extremely dry weather, extended periods of rain, flooding, and snowmelt will have the same effect on your gardens. Some plants will thrive on too much water; others will drown.
- Drainage can be helped by applying Gypsum around the base or even leaf mold, which will help keep the soil perking.
- Container plants should not use any mixes that help retain moisture, as they will never dry out. Check labels.
- After heavy rain, small plants may need to have their leaves washed off. The muddy covering will halt photosynthesis because the sun cannot reach them, as well as harbor oncoming fungus.
- It’s best not to feed plants as the rootballs cannot take up any nutrients because of the excess moisture. It’s best to wait a couple of weeks, let plants rebound, and if there are any new shoots or blooms, that’s an indication that your plant is feeding again.
Don’t forget to remove any temporary coverings from your plants after the storms have passed so that plants can once again receive proper sunlight, moisture, and air.
What actions have you had to take so far this season? Tell us in the comments below!
With contributions from freelance writers and gardeners, Sheryl Normandeau and Kevin Cutlip