We all know how hot it gets during the peak of summer in Texas. All it takes is two minutes standing outside to start pouring down sweat. The heat isn’t only affecting us though, it’s affecting all the plants around us as well, from your landscaping plants to your gardens and the plants you see every day on your way to work.
What can we do to support our plants through these extreme conditions?
Cover your soil. Make sure that there is no bare soil exposed to the sun. This will stimulate fast evaporation and allows the sun to bake it right up, leaving you with a solid dirt brick. Cover it with any type of mulch — cheap store-bought, leaves left from fall, or a hay bale from a local feed store — they all work great. When spreading, make sure your mulch is at least 2-3 inches deep, the thicker it is the longer it takes for evaporation to happen.
Plant shade-providing plants. Planting annuals that grow well in the summer can help drastically decrease the amount of sun exposure an area is getting. Sunflower and okra are great for this, as well as many native plants such as pokeweed, beautyberry, or Turk’s cap.
Did you know, globally there is more water retained in the soil than in all of our freshwater rivers, streams, and lakes combined?
Increase organic matter. Organic matter from leaves, sticks, mulch, and compost holds and retains water longer than soil left to its own devise. Check out this chart on the percentages of where water is across the world. The more organic matter in your soil, the less frequently you need to whip out the hose. People with a highly dense organic matter buildup can dig down into it and find water inches below the surface even after not watering for several days.
Reduce plant stress. The heat is definitely stressing out the plants, you might see them sag and droop in the height of the day, sometimes looking almost dead. It’s important NOT to water when you see this. The shock of being cooled off and then having to deal with the heat again can be detrimental, especially if regularly practiced. Instead, water for a longer period early in the morning or late in the evening when you can walk outside without instantaneously sweating. Water long enough for the water to soak into the ground. This could take up to 30 minutes depending on soil conditions.
Invest in rainwater harvesting containers. Due to its high acidity, added chemicals like chloramine, plus its general hardness, city water can promote dryness and deposit build up. The more tap water that’s used, the more you will have to water to keep the plants thriving. Think about your roof: an inch of rainwater on a 2,000 square-foot roof equals about 1,200 gallons of rainwater. Imagine how much water you could save!