As spring transitions into the cozy cocoon of summer and the longer days stretch into night, the warm breezes and buzz of bumblebees make the outdoor air fresh and new again. Plants are in full bloom and exciting blossoms dot your spectacular outdoor garden. But as the hot sun breaches the sky and the temperatures rise to meet it, you may wonder how to keep your garden happy and refreshed even in summer’s extreme weather conditions.
First, you must have an understanding of your local climate. If you know that your area receives more rain than other regions during the summer months — or conversely, gets dry and hot, you can choose your plants accordingly. If you are feeling a little lost about where to begin, stop by your local plant nursery to chat with a professional for insight and advice. You can make your garden a success in any season by doing your research ahead of time to find out which native plants are well suited for your local seasonal changes.
Once you have a garden planted, you’ll want it to stay looking beautiful and healthy. Here are some tips and ideas to keep your garden radiant and fruitful during the challenging heat of summer.
Naturally, the increase in temperature will cause your plants to dry out faster in the summer than in other seasons. Many novice gardeners will take this to mean that they should overwater to compensate for the amount that is evaporating. However, overwatering may lead to plant disease such as root rot, pests, or even an increase in your water bill.
A good rule of thumb is to use a rain gauge to determine how much water your yard is receiving and go from there. You should aim to water frequently but not too much; a minimum of one to two inches each week is advised. Try testing the moisture in the soil approximately six inches below the surface since this is where the plant roots will grow and drink in the moisture. Also, give your full-sun plants a deep water whenever possible to support deeper root growth and lessen runoff.
One way to slow down the evaporation of moisture from the soil is to apply mulch around your plants. It can help to protect against pests and weeds as well.
Make Your Own Shade
If your plot has natural shade, then you don’t have to worry about adjusting for partial-sun plants. On the other hand, if your garden lot has no shade, you might need to get creative. You can shield your sensitive and temperamental plants from a sunburn by thoughtfully planting a range of plant heights to create shade for other plants. For example, a lettuce plant does not grow well in full sun. An option might be to start it from seedling inside your home in a cooler climate, then plant it outside underneath a taller plant that has already had the opportunity to sprout up and provide shade to your lettuce.
Keep an Eye on Pests
There’s no rest for the wicked, and that’s certainly true when it comes to outdoor pests in the summertime. To keep your plants healthy, be sure to keep an eye out for new pests that come crawling around to chomp on your plant’s leaves or roots. Employ organic pest control options or plant flowers that attract good bugs to help kill invasive bugs, like sunflowers.
Deadhead for New Growth
Good gardeners pull off dead flowers, leaves, and stems constantly throughout the summer. By “deadheading,” or pulling the dead blooms from the plant, you can help to maintain a manageable plant size and stimulate new and healthy growth.
Keep Up With Your Produce Picking
New produce is constantly popping up in any summer garden until the sky fades into fall. Once your produce is ripe and ready to be picked, don’t waste any time. Similar to deadheading, harvesting any produce as quickly and efficiently as possible will keep your garden growing back healthy and strong multiple times — and you’ll have plenty of fresh produce to enjoy all summer long.
Replenish Your Crops for Fall Harvest
As late summer dwindles into fall, don’t get caught without your favorite fall vegetable plants on hand. Swap out your summer planting varieties for delicious squashes, gourds, Brussels sprouts, and carrots. Be aware of the first expected frost date in your area, and make sure to plant early enough so that you are able to harvest before the plants freeze.
Enjoy Sweet Summertime in Your Garden
Many people enjoy gardening for its calming effects and the sense of accomplishment that comes when you have a successful and happy garden. By creating your own pockets of shade, watering as needed, and maintaining a healthy trim on your flowers and vegetable plants, you can ensure that your garden is an oasis all summer long.
Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.