While I’m sure the current warm temperatures will fluctuate back to normal soon, I’m also sure it’s not the last heat wave we can expect. Many plants don’t like excessive heat any more than we do. Prolonged high temperatures can cause some plants to shutdown and many will drop their flowers, as a means of survival. It can also physically damage plants by causing leaf scorch or sunburned fruits, like the tomato and pepper shown here. It can also mess with the way fruits and vegetables taste.
When temperatures soar, plants need the same things people do – shade and water. Shade can be hard to finagle. Shade cloth and structures like arbors and pergolas really need to be put in place long before it heats up. If you have an area that always bakes in summer, they are something to consider.
Heat waves are not the time to be doing any planting, but if you must, give plants and especially seedlings some temporary shade by planting them near a taller plant that casts a shadow or by placing a chair or ladder in front of the plants and covering it with a shade cloth or even a sheet. I know it’s not attractive, but it will give your plants a much better chance of survival.
Water is a bit easier. Ideally, a drip irrigation system is the way to go. During heat waves, it can be set to drip periodically throughout the day and set back to normal when temperatures fall. You can find drip irrigation kits in most hardware stores and online line. They are much less expensive than you think and much, much easier to set up than I ever would have imagined. Add a timer and you’re golden.
If you don’t have a drip system, the best time to water plants is in the morning. This will allow them to become fully hydrated before the high temperatures arise. They will also have time to dry off, before evening, so they will be less prone to fungal spores and slugs.
As for your lawn, keep the grass height at least 3 inches tall. A tall, thick lawn can handle penetrating sun much better than a lawn stressed from being clipped to within an inch of its life.
And finally, a reminder than mulch is a garden’s and a gardener’s best friend. A 3 – 4 inch layer of organic mulch will keep plant roots cool and relatively moist. Your plants may still wilt in mid-day heat, but they won’t die if the roots are kept happy. Plus, you’ll need less water to keep the plants hydrated, since the mulch will prevent it from evaporating.