In case you haven’t noticed, it’s rather on the warm side here it Wichita. It’s been that way for a couple days, and it doesn’t look like there’s much relief in store for the rest of the week. The hot, dry weather can be pretty damaging to plants, especially if our watering practices aren’t good.

Here’s a few tips on appropriate watering during a hot spell:

  • Water in the morning if at all possible, especially if you are using a sprinkler. This way plants will have the water available to them when it gets really hot in the afternoon.
  • Water thoroughly, not just a little sprinkle. Make sure the water soaks in, down to at least 8″ deep, and more if possible. Use a screwdriver to test if the soil is soft down deep enough.
  • If you are watering thoroughly, you shouldn’t need to water every day, unless you have a sandy soil. If you have a clay soil, check before watering again.
  • Try to avoid getting the plants wet when you water, especially tomatoes. Other plants are less affected by overhead watering, but getting the tomato foliage wet will drastically increase incidence of disease. And, the plants don’t absorb water through the leaves, just the roots. Put the water where it will count!
  • If you check on your plants during the heat of the day, and they look droopy, DO NOT automatically water them again. Check the soil to see if it is dry on the surface and a few inches down before watering again. It is really easy to get into a habit of overwatering during a hot spell.

A couple other things to watch for in your garden during the heat:

  • Spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions. If you have a problem starting, it would be good to get some neem oil on in the early morning, or spray your plants with a hard stream of water to dislodge them. The population of mites can explode in hot weather, so keep looking for signs of them. (Obviously, when using the “hard stream of water” method, you have to decide if the mites or potential disease is a more damaging problem for the plant.)
  • Almost all garden vegetables that flower (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, corn, melons, and squash) struggle with good pollination during hot weather. It’s already been a rough summer for pollination, and it seems like it’s only going to get worse! While your plants will continue flowering, they probably won’t set a whole lot. Corn ears may not be completely full if they are pollinating right now. Using blossom set products are mostly likely going to be a waste of money with temperatures above 100 degrees. When it gets back down to 95 or less, they may be more beneficial. (Can you tell I’m a little skeptical?)

Otherwise, keep yourself cool and out of the garden during the worst of the heat!

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on July 11, 2011, in Around the Garden and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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