One of the best ways to enjoy your garden in summer is to sit in your favorite easy chair indoors or from a chaise lounge on your shady patio or deck and gaze at it. Few people can say they honestly enjoy working in the garden when sweat is running into their eyes so much they can hardly see what they’re doing.
To help you with the maintenance of your garden and landscape during this brutally hot time of the year, here are some tips:
Take care of yourself
Weekend gardeners are often more accustomed to air-conditioned homes and offices than the heat outside. Working outside in hot weather places extra stress on the body. As sweat is lost by the body, dehydration occurs. This can cause headaches, weakness and nausea and sometimes even lead to heat stroke. Gardeners working outside may lose up to two quarts of water or more each hour.
To prevent dehydration, drink before, during and after working outside. It is especially important for the body to have a good storehouse of fluids well before the start of outdoor activities. Drink before you’re thirsty, and drink cold liquids because they are absorbed by the body faster. Since you won’t be inclined to stop what you’re doing to go inside for a drink, keep a generous-size insulated container of ice water with you outside where you are working.
It’s generally best to drink water. If you choose other liquids, make sure they contain only a small amount of sugar because it slows down liquid absorption by the body. And avoid beverages containing alcohol and caffeine.
Try to work in your garden in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler, and stay in shady areas as much as possible. Move out of areas that become sunny and hot and go to shade to continue working. You might consider a beach umbrella on occasion. If the day is not too windy, this form of mobile shade can help keep you out of the sun when working in sunny areas.
Wear a hat that shades your face, ears and back of your neck, and wear loose, comfortable clothing.
Use sun screen on exposed skin. Also, apply mosquito repellent whenever you go out to work in the garden. Early morning and evening are when mosquitoes are most active, and West Nile virus is still a concern.
Finally, take frequent breaks and try not to stay outside in the heat for extended periods.
Stay on top of things
Watering plants properly is critically important in the summer. Plants in containers will likely need to be watered every day. Landscapes will need supplemental irrigation whenever the weather doesn’t provide enough rain, especially for vegetables, bedding plants and newly planted trees and shrubs.
Soaker hoses provide an easy-to-install, efficient and effective way to irrigate beds. Sprinklers also work well and are the most practical way to water large lawn areas. Professionally installed irrigation systems are great and save a lot of work. If you decide to do this, make sure whoever installs the system is licensed as required by Louisiana law. Using irrigation devices minimizes the time you have to spend watering your plants and will typically water more thoroughly and effectively than you will by hand.
Savvy gardeners know that promptly taking care of any problems that arise is an important part of surviving the summer. One day you notice some weeds in one of your garden beds. At that point, it might take you 10 or 15 minutes to deal with it. Two weeks later, the problem is much worse, and now it will take 30 or 45 minutes to clear out the weeds.
This can be said of many summer gardening jobs, like pest control, grooming plants, pruning and most other jobs done to keep plants healthy and the landscape attractive. Make it a point to walk around your landscape in early morning or late afternoon every few days looking for the beginning signs of problems. It can make a real difference in keeping your landscape looking good during summer heat.
For more information, contact Dr. Chris Robichaux, county agent/area horticulturist, St. Martin/Iberia Parishes, at 332-2181 or 369-4440.