The good news is you can take steps to protect your plants and your harvests.
Gathering some information will help you be successful in hot weather gardening:
🔥 Your area’s average high temperatures
🔥 When you can expect the heat to strike
🔥 What temperatures your crops need to thrive
Not sure how hot it gets in your area? You can use Weather Underground’s “Historical Weather” section to learn about weather trends in your area.
All vegetable crops have a temperature sweet spot that supports maximum growth and productivity.
Cool season vegetables are generally leaf and root vegetables that thrive in temperatures between 50 and 70°F. Many can withstand frost, but they slow production and eventually bolt as temperatures climb.
Hot weather crops bear fruit (we call many of them “vegetables”). Summer favorites like tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, mellons, and beans thrive in temperatures between 80 and 90°F. If your high temperatures rarely go above 95°F, you just need to make sure your plants are healthy and watered.
However, if you live in an area that regularly sees temperatures above 95°F, keeping crops cool is key.
Hot weather gardening can be challenging, but just a few measures can keep your plants happy and productive:
- Choose crops that can handle the heat. Sweet potatoes, okra, melons, hot peppers, southern peas, and malabar spinach are all great options for hot areas.
- Make sure your watering is consistent. Irregular or insufficient watering can stress your plants and make them less resilient in the heat. Sufficient water helps your plants stay healthy and withstand heat.
- Provide lots of organic matter with compost. Abundant soil life protects your plants from diseases and makes them more resilient to stress. Soil with high levels of organic matter also holds water better, so you don’t risk losing as much moisture when things heat up.
- Interplant to create natural shade in the hottest part of the day. If you orient your garden beds facing West, you can plant tall, heat-loving crops “in front” of other crops to provide shade. Okra grows large with big, broad leaves–like a natural sun canopy that also feeds you!
- Space your plants further apart. Biointensive planting has many benefits. But when things heat up, closely spaced plants have to compete more for water and air circulation. Just like you don’t want a long hug on a hot summer day, your plants need a little room to breathe.
- Try shade cloth. Shade cloth comes in a variety of densities that provide more or less shade depending on your plants’ needs.
Solving your unique climate and space puzzle takes time, research, and experimentation. Making observations and taking good notes this year can help your garden grow even more next year. And we’re happy to help you learn more along the way!
Join us for our summer series of blogs all about hot weather gardening for bountiful harvests.
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In an age of increasing specialization, Amy proudly calls herself a generalist. She holds a Master’s degree in English, a RYT 200 yoga teacher certification, and is working her way through a bachelor’s in Biology. She believes in nurturing and following curiosity, then taking what you’ve learned and sharing it to better the lives of others.
Amy is an avid chaos gardener and has worked in agriculture for several years. In 2017, she first apprenticed on a Certified Organic vegetable farm and later took over as operations manager there. She also served as greenhouse manager for a local restaurant’s urban farm, and she spent a year in AmeriCorps service to an agriculture nonprofit specializing in education for beginning farmers and gardeners. She has a passion for greenhouse work, and she loves watching tiny little seedlings grow and turn into lunch. Amy and her husband grow an ever-evolving front yard garden in southern Appalachia (apple-atcha).
If we’re privileged to have water at our disposal as in the Pacific N.W. we gratefully do, we must all be mindful to water the roots, not the entire plant, leaves, canopy, etc. when these higher than typical temperatures present.
Early in the morning (pre-dawn the best) or after the sun sets, otherwise the majority of the effort will evaporate rather than availing to the thirst of the plant from their primary take up points!