Dear Fellow Survivalist;
As the dog days of summer bear down upon us and sap our energy, I’m constantly reminded of the problems that the heat can cause in my garden. We live in a hot area of the country, so I’ve lost more crops to heat than I care to remember. Getting a garden to survive the heat is a challenge that I’m constantly striving to overcome.
Plants all have a natural temperature range in which they grow well. The USDA has divided the country into growing zones, so that it is easy to determine what to plant in the area in which you live. But even with that, we have to remember that temperatures vary extensively throughout the growing season, and while we may be concerned about frost in the spring and fall, we have to be concerned about heat in the peak of summer.
Heat creates a couple of different problems for plants, but fortunately they are problems that can be overcome. That is, they can be overcome if we are willing to make a few changes to our normal gardening scheme.
The first problem is that of the sunlight itself, beating down upon the plants. Now, I know that plants need sunlight, that’s a given. But adding more sunlight isn’t going to speed up the photosynthesis process. If anything, that extra sunlight is going to be captured by the leaves and turned into heat. That’s something that none of us need in the summertime.
One solution to this problem is to cover the garden with shade cloth. Shade cloth looks like burlap, but it’s made out of a synthetic material. That helps it to last longer than standard burlap will. The shade cloth will block out 50% of the sunlight, still leaving plenty for the plants to use. That makes it much better for your garden than the shade offered by trees.
Shade cloth can be strung up on just about any framework. I’ve seen PVC pipe used for it, as well as wood. A lot depends on what you have at hand and what you are comfortable working with. The same places that sell the shade cloth also sell grommets and connectors for it, to that you can attach it to your framework. Be sure to hem any cut ends before trying to attach it, or the wind will cause the shade cloth to come apart at the ends.
The apparent temperature under the shade cloth will be about ten degrees less than standing out in sunlight. That will make a big difference for your garden, and for you as well.
The second problem that the hot summer causes for your garden is evaporation. Water evaporates faster in the heat, than it does when it’s cool. If you water during the daytime, like most people do, then a fair amount of that water is going to simply evaporate, rather than doing any good for your plants. This is even worse if you are using sprinklers to water with, as some of the water will actually evaporate before it even hits the ground.
Here again, there are ways of working around the problem. To start with, change your watering time to night time. The absolute best time to water is about two or three in the morning. That way, the plants can absorb the water before the sun comes up. Of course, doing that either requires you to be up at that time or to put your watering on a timer. If you don’t want to do that, then water after sundown, that’ll be almost as good.
In addition to the watering time, the way you water makes a difference too. Irrigating with subterraneous soaker hoses or drip irrigation will greatly reduce the amount of water lost, getting it right to the plants that need it. I personally prefer soaker hoses, simply because once I put them in the ground, I can forget about them. Drip irrigation requires that I reconfigure my irrigation system every time I replant. That’s more work.
By getting water right to the plants’ roots, you not only ensure that they are well watered, but you also can save on your water bill. You have to pay for all that water that evaporates, so you may as well eliminate as much of it as possible.
Following these two steps will go a long way towards keeping your garden productive, even in the hottest of weather. Considering that you may need that garden to feed you some day, it’s worth the extra effort now, so that you can be sure that your garden is ready when you need it. The time and money you spend will pay for itself in increased yields of fresh produce.
So, if your garden is suffering from the heat, don’t give it a tall glass of iced tea, give it some shade and some water. It will thank you for it.
Let me know how your garden does. Until then, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.
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