Hot Summer Days
Hot summer days and excessively dry conditions are two challenges for gardeners as well as for our plants. When high temperatures and bright sun are too much of a good thing sunburn or leaf scald damage appears on fruit and leaves.
Leaves damaged by sunburn can appear bleached out, turn brown or die. Bark on trees can split, and twigs may die back. Vegetables and fruits may appear scarred or scabbed. Sun damage can also mimic nutrient deficiencies and diseases. Too much sun and heat can hamper photosynthesis and cause bitter or misshapen fruit.
If you have already made certain that you’ve chosen heat and drought-tolerant varieties and put the right plant in the right place for its sun/shade and water tolerances then the next step is watering. The goal is to water deeply and regularly. Early morning drip irrigation is effective by slowly delivering water to the plants’ root zones without evaporation or runoff depriving the roots of that needed drink.
This helps plants establish strong root systems, especially for plants that have a starring role in your garden. Large trees and shrubs cannot easily be replaced. Avoid excessive pruning and fertilizing that stimulates new growth that not only will increase the plants’ water demands but will be tender and more susceptible to sunburn.
Check your soil cover. A fresh layer of quality mulch prevents the soil surface from drying out, cools the plant’s roots, and prevents weeds that compete with desirable plants for water and nutrients. Organic mulch decomposes in the soil and needs to be periodically refreshed.
Don’t forget to care for the garden worker as well as the garden. Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 600 people in the United States die each year due to complications of extreme heat. Help prevent heat-related illness:
• Stay Cool – Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible
• Dress Appropriately – Wear light-weight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing
• Eat Light – Heavy meals add heat to your body
• Stay Hydrated – Don’t wait until you get thirsty to drink. Increase your water intake and take a water bottle with you. Consider drinking a sports drink when heavily sweating
• Stay Informed – Be aware of your local forecast and make plans accordingly
• Plan Outdoor Activities Carefully – Garden during the coolest parts of the day. Pace yourself when working outside and rest in the shade as needed. Wear sunscreen for added protection.
• Protect and Monitor Those Who Are Most Vulnerable – At-risk groups include infants and young children, people 65 years of age or older, people who are overweight, people who overexert during work or exercise and people who are physically ill.
Know what trouble looks like and what to do if someone shows signs of having a heat-related illness.
HEAT STROKE SIGNS: • High body temperature (103°F or higher); • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin; • Fast, strong pulse; • Headache; • Dizziness; • Nausea; • Confusion • Fainting
TAKE ACTION: • Call 911 right away-heat stroke is a medical emergency • Move the person to a cooler place • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath • Do not give the person anything to drink
HEAT EXHAUSTION SIGNS: • Heavy sweating; • Cold, pale, and clammy skin; • Fast, weak pulse; • Nausea or vomiting; • Muscle cramps; • Tiredness or weakness; • Dizziness; • Headache; • Fainting
TAKE ACTION: •Move to a cool place; • Loosen your clothes; • Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath; • Sip water; Get medical help right away if: • You are throwing up • Your symptoms get worse • Your symptoms last longer than 1 hour
HEAT CRAMPS SIGNS: Heavy sweating during intense exercise; • Muscle pain or spasms
TAKE ACTION: Stop physical activity and move to a cool place; • Drink water or a sports drink; • Wait for cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity. Get medical help right away if: • Cramps last longer than 1 hour; • You’re on a low-sodium diet or • You have heart problems
Heat will begin building in the central and eastern U.S. by midweek…stay tuned to the National Weather Service for current information.
Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.