Heatwaves in the Bay Area can be brutal, and it looks like we’re in for more in the coming years as temperature records are being broken across the board. Since summer’s coming up (hello summer camp!), it’s time to prepare our gardens for the extreme temperatures that are becoming more common due to climate change. Here are a few tips to get your garden ready for the scorching heat.
Prune Your Trees Ahead of Summer
To prepare your garden and trees for summer, you’ll need to do a little work beforehand. At the end of winter or the start of spring, take the opportunity to trim your trees when the limbs are completely dry. Trimming back your trees before the hot weather arrives will help to conserve the nutrients where they’re needed and reduce the load on your heat-stressed trees. Remember: it’s important to trim when the limbs are dry in order to prevent infection.
Apply Mulch to Reflect the Sun
As soon as the warm weather starts to kick in, apply a reflective mulch throughout your garden to retain moisture and reflect the sun. Ideal mulches for this purpose include straw, alfalfa hay, and dried grass clippings. Black plastic ground coverings and thick layers of compost or manure are more likely to scorch your plants and soil rather than protect them, so stick to the light-colored mulches mentioned above.
Let the Grass Grow a Little Taller
In the summer, long grasses can sometimes make us nervous about snakes. However, they also help to protect the soil. When a heatwave is expected to arrive, keep your grass at least three inches tall. This will allow the grass to shade the soil underneath and prevent the bare soil from getting completely scorched. Ornamental grasses provide another great option for shading the soil without using up too much precious moisture.
Protect Your Plants with Shade Cloth
Sometimes, the sun is simply too much for our plants — particularly fresh produce crops and seedlings. If a series of hot days are expected, get in ahead of time and make shade cloth covers for row crops, flowers, and any other species that are especially sensitive to heat. Position the shade cloth to protect the plants from the heat of the day without reducing aeration or covering the plants completely. Cloth comes in a variety of “shade factors” that are best suited to the plant that you’re covering.
Water in the Cool of the Day
The final tip is the easiest to implement: water your plants in the cool of the day. When you water your plants in full sun during a heatwave, not only will most of the water evaporate, but you could also cause the roots to boil. Instead, water your garden deeply once every few days in the early morning or the cool of the evening. This will give the water time to sink into the soil before the heat reaches its peak.
A Final Tip
When the heat arrives, these tips should help you to reduce a lot of the damage to your plants. However, it’s also essential that your garden includes species that are appropriate for the climate where you live. For help with planning a heat-resistant garden, refer to this information on hardiness zones and planting for the environment in San Francisco.
Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional who works with companies like Door Locks Direct. She often covers developments in HR, business, recruiting, real estate, law and finance, but also enjoys writing about travel, interiors and events.