Food & Garden: Help your garden survive the summer heat

Sponsored by:
The Travelers Rest Farmers Market

By Andrew Padula, Contributing Columnist and owner of Greer-based Padula's Plants:

Now that the heat and humidity have arrived, there are many precautions that can be taken to ensure the health of yourself and your garden:
• A great block of time to enter into your garden is between 5am and 9am. Watering your garden plants during these cooler summer morning temperatures allows your plants to absorb the water before the heat of the day steals it away. If you cannot water your plants during the morning hours, then watering them around 3 hours before sunset is also a good time. If you are watering during the late afternoon/early evening then you would want to water your plants a little longer then you would in the morning, since you are watering after the heat has built up from the day. Many part-sun and shade gardens should avoid being watered closer to sunset, unless there is a critical need. These part-sun and shade gardens may not have the time to dry off before sunset, allowing mildews and other issues to arise in them.
• Getting out early into your garden during the cooler morning temperatures allows your body to gradually adjust to the building heat and humidity of the day. This is much less of a shock to your body when compared to suddenly walking outside from an air conditioned room into muggy outdoor temperatures of 90 - 100 degrees F. during the afternoon hours. 
• Just like your garden plants, your body is able to benefit to a greater extent from drinking water early in the morning. Drinking plenty of water early in the day will help your body more easily absorb the water, helping your body better combat the effects of high summer heat and humidity on the way later in the day. Drinking a bottle or two of water when you are working and sweating in this high heat and humidity does your body little good, and is not very effective at keeping you hydrated.
• During this time of the growing season when you are working with plant seedlings, dividing up and replanting your garden plants, or when transplanting mature plants to a new location, it is important to keep them in part Sun conditions and well watered. If the plants you are working with rely heavily on full sun conditions and not much water, sometimes it is best to wait until the Fall to work with these sun loving plants, when high temperatures are back around 70 degrees F. Remember that just because certain Sun loving plants do not require much water when they are established, does not mean that they do not require more water then usual after they have been divided up or just transplanted to a new location. 
• If you are making your own organic based soil mix for your garden or container plants here in the Upstate, good for you! Adding slightly more red clay, small decomposing pieces of wood, and other decomposing plant material into your soil mix during this time of the year will help your mix retain moisture better in the summer heat. As an added bonus, your plants will love the added bio-activity these natural amendments attract into your soil mix as the amendments further decompose into the Fall season. 
• Now is a great time to start rooting cuttings of the new growth/non-flowering branches from mature pepper and tomato plants for a renewed Fall crop, extending your harvest time. Once the cuttings root, their growth cycle resets and they begin to grow as a new mature plant. Because the new plant/rooted cutting has skipped the seedling stage, it often times will begin to produce in less time. Compared to starting your second Fall crop from seed during the Summer heat and waiting for it to reach maturity and finally start to produce during the Late Fall/Winter.
• During the high Summer heat, providing a water source for the wildlife in your garden, will help to keep you garden healthy and self-sustaining. 
• Propagating plant cuttings outdoors in the high summer temperatures and humidity is easier, compared to other times of the year/growing season. Plant cuttings love these humid outdoor conditions to root in. The only thing these cuttings do not like is the direct sun on them during the heat of the day while they are forming new roots in either a soil mix or water. These cuttings will root much easier in part-sun conditions or even light shade, most cuttings need just enough Sun on them in order to help form roots. Once they have rooted, they can gradually be exposed to more and more sun over the course of a week or two, until they are in a location where their Sun requirements are met.
• Try to avoid hunching over or compressing your body while you are pulling weeds in your garden during the summer heat. This puts added pressure on your body and helps to increase your body heat. Instead, try sitting down in your garden while you are weeding around you. When you have reached all of the weeds around you, just move over to a new area. Even weeding your garden should be a relaxing event for you. However, if you are being paid to maintain a garden then sitting down and weeding should not be an option for you.
• Use the summer heat and intense rays from the Sun to your benefit by brewing a sun tea with some herbs from your garden. Many herbs are coming into flower during this time of the season and have a high concentration of the benefits they offer to you in their flowers, leaves, or roots.

Learn more about Andrew Padula and Padula's Plants here or find them on Facebook here.

(Image attribution.)