Chill Out in Your Hot Garden This Summer

August 4, 2010 | By | Comments (9)


Who can ever forget the scene of the Wicked Witch of the West screaming, “I’m melting! I’m melting!” after accidentally being splashed with a bucket of water? Right row, entering what seems like our 60th straight day of 100 degrees and no rain, I’d love to be splashed right in the face.

Dog exfordy These are what’s known as the “dog days of summer,” because as we all know, canines more than any other animals like to watch people suffer. Just look at this dog at left. Do you think he’s lost one second of sleep worrying about how this heat is affecting his master? I think not.

He’s thinking, “Let’s play! Chase me around the house and all through the neighborhood until we can hardly breathe! Now let’s smell stuff. Oh, that’s so disgusting, I can’t stop! Whoa, there goes a car. Chase and bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Why have you stopped running? Are you having a stroke yet? Bark!”

So it is up to we humans to deal with with not only our own suffering, but that of our plants as well. With these thoughts in mind, here are some simple, but typically ingenious, steps that you can take to help both your plants and you survive until fall.

Plant Survival Tips

Don’t cut your grass when it’s hot and dry. If you do, your grass will immediately turn brown and you’ll have to water a lot to make it green again. This wastes water. Instead, let let grass grow 3-4 inches tall before you mow. It’ll stay green longer and need less water. I know, I know — some snooty neighborhoods frown upon lawns that grow taller than asphalt, but I say a thick, green lawn that’s 4 inches tall beats a scalped, brown lawn any day.

Don’t fertilize plants that are stressed by heat and drought. The last thing they need is to grow more water-demanding leaves and stems. Giving high-nitrogen fertilizer to a stressed plants is like handing a Red Bull to a cardiac patient. If you just have to fertilize, make sure the soil is moist first and stays that way. Never fertilize a dry plant. The chemical salts in the fertilizer will suck water from the plant.

Don’t spray herbicides, pesticides, or oil sprays on plants when it’s hot. The spray dries so fast, it burns the leaves. Instead, spray in early morning when it’s cool and the wind is calm.

Don’t dig up and transplant trees, shrubs, or most any other plant now. It’s just too hot. The transplanting shock will kill them. Wait until fall.

Don’t trust your lawn sprinklers to do a good job watering other plants. Trees, shrubs, and perennials need a thorough soaking once or twice a week, not a 15-minute spritzing every day. Water must get water to the roots, not just wet the foliage.

Don’t let container plants dry out. Their limited soil mass and exposure to the heat on all sides means they dry out much more quickly than plants in the ground. In hot weather, containers may need watering once or twice a day.

People Survival Tips

A while back, Grumpy asked readers on our Southern Living website how they cope with 90-plus degree weather in the garden. I usually survive by keeping a cooler of cold beer handy as well as a servant girl to fan me, but here are some other methods you might try.

Laura Sipple says: “If I’m going to be working in one general area, I pitch our 10’x10′ canopy tent, grab the extension cords, and plug in a portable outdoor fan. I can get a lot of weeding done that way!” Grumpy applauds her ingenuity.

Godwin Creek Farms says: “Yesterday, I gardened with cold packs stuffed in my socks.” Getting cold feet right now is a good thing.

Linda Sayre says: “My husband fills up an unused, insulated pump sprayer with ice cold water and ice cubes and sprays himself down throughout the day. He may get wet, but it prevents him from dying from heat stroke!” Grumpy adds it’s also fun and you can spray other people!

Karen J. Jasczynski says: “I garden before 10 AM and during the twilight hours, doing what needs to be done quickly. I guess you could call me the ‘Twilight Gardener’ without fangs!” Grumpy always suspected many vampires were gardeners.

Finally, Amy Patterson McPherson offers the wisest advice of all. She suggests “hiring a landscaper and watching him from my kitchen window.” Especially if he has ripped abs and pects.

Thanks to exfordy for the happy dog.


  1. sciencestudent

    I love your idea of using a canopy. It’s amazing, but they actually reduce the temperature by up to 20 degrees. Makes all the difference. I normally just use mine for sporting events, but I should try it for gardening. I got the one from Undercover and it’s lasted for several years, now:

    One important fact I learned about watering my yard is that a weekly “deep soaking” like you suggest helps the roots grow deeper and makes the lawn more resilient.

    The most important thing is to drink, drink, drink! I set a timer and every hour go inside and drink at least 8 ounces (typically more!). Of course you don’t want to take too long of a break, or you may not want to go back out! 😉

    February 6, 2013 at 10:26 am
  2. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    You can replace your fescue with Zoysia next spring. If you want to do it before then and you don’t mind watering it every rainless day for a month, you can also do it now.

    August 9, 2010 at 2:03 pm
  3. Diane Cox

    I live in an older, shady part of Atlanta, but unfortunately our large old trees are starting to be taken down. Often they look wonderful, but their bases are so large they don’t have a good purchase between sidewalk and street. I will be replacing my fescue with zoysia before next summer. When is the best time to do this?

    August 6, 2010 at 2:14 pm
  4. Jeff

    I wear my swimming trunks during yard work and soak myself with a garden hose. Works pretty good for me.

    August 6, 2010 at 7:32 am
  5. cameron

    We can all relate. We’ve gone from 100 degree dry, desert heat to 100 degree humid, rainforest heat. A heat index today of 105-110. Sounds normal.
    I have the bandana that I soak with cool water and tie around my neck.
    That last idea of hiring a hunky landscaper sounds the best…if only they didn’t commit terrible crimes of meatball shrubs and crepe murder.

    August 5, 2010 at 11:25 am
  6. Drigo

    If I am working during the hot hours of the day, I will make sure my boys have the water hose and their water guns to spray me often. I get to do yard work, my grass get watered and my wife gets some time alone in side the house.

    August 5, 2010 at 11:23 am
  7. Henry H.

    There is also a company that makes a bandana type thing you soak in water and it stays ICE COLD for a long time. . These actually do work and help tremendously. Otherwise, I do all my landscape stuff from 6pm-dark. The only reason to do it during the day is if your gettin paid for it-> landscapers are cheaper than hospital visits…..
    On the other hand, yes its hard to beat a bucket to the face unless you are the wicked witch or one of those guys from “Alien Nation”. Forgot about that one didn’t ya????? God Bless 80’s sitcoms!!!!

    August 5, 2010 at 9:36 am
  8. julianchandler

    Even funnier than usual!
    I might add that for your fans who live in Oklahoma, there is a state website that scientifically calculates how long you should water your lawn based on extensive weather data collected by state climatologists. You just select your city, how long it’s been since you last watered, what kind of grass you have, the type of sprinkler you’re using, and your watering pattern. The website is:
    Of course, there aren’t enough hours in a day to water my entire 1-acre yard with an impact sprinkler for 2 1/2 hours, which was the result I got when I used the website today, even though I watered yesterday too.

    August 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm
  9. gardenwalkgardentalk

    Hilarious. Like the dog and dog talk.

    August 4, 2010 at 6:55 pm

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