top of page

Gardening in Hot Weather

Heat Wave Safety: How to Stay Cool in the Garden

Summer is in full swing now! Much of the country will be battling a heat wave this week. Here in Oklahoma the heat index has been over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit for weeks. Luckily, we’ve been having rain too, so the garden is growing like crazy. Last year the rain turned off and we hit drought at the same time as an awful heatwave lasting almost a month. Lawns dried up. Plants and trees were hot in the scorching sun. Many gardens suffered, even master gardeners lost trees and perennials. I definitely learned a few tips about hot weather gardening that I’d like to share with you as we enter into another scorcher!

Note: I live in garden zone 7b, while most of these tips apply to any zone once temperatures hit 90+ Fahrenheit, you should always research and look for tips in your particular garden zone. Don’t know your zone? You can look it up by zip code here

Gardening in the Heat

I like hot summers, but I know that my opinion is in the minority when I hear fellow gardeners complaining about the heat and humidity. Hot weather is tough on plants and people too. It is important to take care while working outside in extreme heat so as not to incur heat stroke. Heat-related deaths outnumber those from natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, and earthquakes combined. You can’t take care of your garden if you don’t take care of yourself, so here are a few tips to help you keep your cool when things are really heating up.

  • Do your heaviest work early in the morning, as early in the day as possible, or in the evening. It’s good for both you and the plants. You may have to alter your routine a little bit to take advantage of the cooler times of day when the sun is not as high in the sky scorching overhead. We call this “the magic hours”. In the evening when the sun is beginning to set, the shadows grow longer and begin to fill in our yard making it prime time to catch up on garden chores.

  • Water at the right times. Your watering schedule will obviously be unique to your garden, but you should work hard to maintain moist soil conditions. Waiting for plants to start wilting before you realize it’s time to water harms your plants’ health and reduces your harvest. The early morning and evening are the best times to water. Less water is wasted to evaporation because it has a chance to soak into the soil before it’s exposed to the mid-day sun and heat.

Luckily for many of you that work during the day, morning or evening gardening may already be your schedule. For the rest of you, take a cue from South American and Mediterranean countries where it is siesta time at high noon. Sit in the shade, relax and enjoy your garden, listen to the birds and watch the butterflies. The weeds will still be there waiting for you once the day cools down.

  • Slow down and pace yourself. Take frequent breaks. It’s okay if you can’t get as much done during a hot, muggy day as you can on a cooler day. Go inside if you feel yourself getting overheated or breathing too heavily. Take a cool shower or spray yourself with the garden hose!

  • Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of cool water before, during and after working outside. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. And no alcohol. While it sounds good, those tasty cocktails will just dehydrate you. Get in the habit of bringing a water bottle with you to the garden. Sports drinks w/ electrolytes are a good idea if you’re feeling dehydrated, click here for a DIY recipe with all natural ingredients. Sun tea is great for adding nutrients back into your body and a cool glass of ice tea always tastes so good! Snack on watermelon or grapes while taking a break. Check out this article on Tea Time.

  • Cool down. If you feel yourself getting overheated stop what you’re doing and take a minute to cool down. Run thru your sprinkler like a little kid, promise it will make you smile! Spray yourself with the garden hose or take a cool shower. Tie a wet bandanna around your neck or even drape a wet towel over the nape of your neck. Better yet, pop the wet bandanna or towel into the fridge or freezer for a while. We have a cooling towel that I keep in the fridge overnight and grab it when I go outside to work. The wrists, nape of the neck, lower back, and groin are areas that will cool you down quickest. Place your cool towel or cold water bottle against one of these pressure points and breath slowly. Take off your shoes and socks to let your feet release the body’s heat. If you need to, go inside to the air conditioning and cool off.

Know the signs of heat stress: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating, etc. And get help if needed.

I also recommend a garden buddy in extreme heat. You can keep an eye on each other, and it gives you someone to complain about the weather with.

  • Have all your tools ready when you head out to begin your chores. Take your tool bag, a bucket for weeds or harvesting, gloves and a water bottle. Nothing is worse than having to make trips back and forth to the garden because you forgot something you need. Gather all things together first and have a plan so you don’t waste time or precise energy.

  • To stay cool, wear loose-fitting, light-colored, breathable clothing. Your clothing should be loose and allow for air flow yet protect you from harmful UV rays. Put on a broad-brimmed hat to shield your head, neck, and shoulders from the sun. Sunscreen is always a good addition to avoid sunburn and overexposure.

  • Work in the shade. Consider adding shade trees, arbors, or trellises to your garden. Many plants will benefit from shade cloth and there are many ideas on how to build your own pergola or cabana with canopy. Hop onto Pinterest and check out some ideas that may benefit both you and your garden while adding luxury and décor.

Giving your garden some partial shade during periods of extreme heat can reduce temperatures by 10 degrees F or more. You can cover your garden with shade cloth, a snow-fence, or latticework supported on a frame – even old sheets or sheer curtains. Make sure your shade-producing materials are well-secured against high winds and are high enough above the plants so that your garden will get good ventilation.

I just purchased and installed an arch trellis over the sitting bench in my garden. I cannot wait for it to fill in with flowers and provide some shade. It also highlights the sitting area and really pulls the garden together.

By taking advantage of many of the tips listed above, you can continue to garden successfully during hot summer weather!


bottom of page