Beat the heat

Vegetable plants, like many other plants in the garden, suffer when it gets too hot. How can you help your plants withstand the extreme heat of summer?

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Hot summer days might be just what you enjoy, but have you considered what your plants undergo when it is extremely hot? High summer temperatures can place undue stress on plants and, whilst you might not be able to control what happens with the weather, there are certain things you can do to help your vegetable and herb plants cope with heat. Top kitchen gardening expert, Bill Kerr, offers the following advice to avoid damage to plants:

beat_the_heat21. Mulch

Placing a layer of mulch (such as bark chips, compost, peanut shells) on the soil surface not only shields it from the heat, but also conserves water. Mulching also increases earthworm activity which results in better soil aeration and improved soil condition. Mulch will also reduce weeds.

2. Water at the right time

When you water your garden is important. The best time to water vegetables is in the early morning or late evening and then you should water it thoroughly. This is because plants cope with a hot day better when the soil is sufficiently moist. Without sufficient moisture, the plants wilt, and much damage will result. This is because a plant experiencing stress conditions will go into survival mode rather than continuing to grow.

beat_the_heat13. Reduce the air temperature

If heat-wave conditions are being experienced, then a light spray of water applied to the foliage and soil will reduce the temperature around the plants, bringing much need relief. The best time to do this is before the maximum day temperature is reached. However, plants that are already wilted will go into shock, so only spray non-wilted plants.

4. Shade the plants

Provide shade for plants with shade cloth (must not provide full shade, only partial shade). This will help during the hottest time of day. “You can either construct a permanent structure over the vegetable garden, or use mini tunnels,” says Bill. “Mini tunnels can be made by positioning shade netting over sturdy wire hoops; these can easily be moved to wherever they are required. Shade netting has the added advantage of serving as protection against hail and birds.”

What to plant in January

Now’s the time to plant baby marrows, cabbage, cucumber, gems, sweet peppers, spring onions and  sweetcorn. Gardeners in frost-free areas can also plant tomatoes, brinjals and pumpkins. In the cooler parts of the country, plant beetroot, broccoli, carrots, celery, potato, radish, Swiss chard and lettuce.

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