COMMUNITY, Home and Garden

How to Keep Your Garden Healthy in Extreme Heat 


Whether you are a vegetable, shrub, tree or human, we all want to beat the summer heat. 

For many annual vegetable crops such as tomatoes, peppers and squash, the heat can enhance some flavors and encourage high yield, while others such as cucumbers can become bitter. 

Alternatively, it can be difficult to know when and how much to water before a big heat wave roles through. 

For most crops, the best time to water is early in the morning when the plants are waking up for the day. 

When the sun is out, our plants are photosynthesizing and using a lot of energy and water to sustain. 

Additionally, when it gets hot in the middle of the day, they are transpiring (sweating, but for plants) and a lot of the moisture pulled out of the soil is evaporating through the plant’s leaves. 

This is why it is very important to water the plants early in the morning so they have enough water reserved for the hottest part of the day. 

Another way to conserve water in extreme heat is to give your plants a layer of mulch, or bark dust, around the root zone. Mulches are an incredible insulator that keeps water from evaporating from the soil surface and provides small amounts of nutrition as it breaks down throughout the year. 

Don’t be surprised if you watered your plants in the morning and they still wilt in the heat. Many plants and trees respond to heat by curling their leaves and limiting the surface area of the leaves to the sun when it is too hot so that it does not lose water. 

Before giving a plant more water, check the soil around the roots for moisture with your finger. If the soil is still moist, the plant is most likely waiting for the temperature to cool before perking back up. 

You’ll often find plants perk back up in the evening after a hot day when they have had enough moisture. 

Sometimes extreme heat is just hard on plants. For fruiting crops, or most vegetable crops, leaves that burn don’t necessarily impact fruit quality but fruit that is unshaded by the leaves can be impacted. 

Therefore, on the extremely hot days, a temporary shade netting or cloth may be needed to shield the fruit to protect from the sun. 

(Elizabeth Watson is with Terra Gardens in Salem.

Contact Keizertimes Staff:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

SUBSCRIBE TO GET KEIZER NEWS — We report on your community with care, depth, fairness, and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more.