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.
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.