February is typically the hottest month on the calendar for South Africans. We’ve had a taste of the extreme heat in the past few weeks, and unfortunately, so have our gardens.

Prolonged high temperatures can wreak havoc on our gardens, especially if they are unexpected. Leaves begin to wilt, plants drop their buds, leafy greens bolt and soil dries out much faster than usual, straining our water supplies.

Make sure your plants are as comfortable as possible this summer with these tips to protect them from extreme heat.

Water frequently

One of the biggest concerns during high temperatures is lack of moisture. Lack of moisture deprives the plants of what they need to function and causes the cells to lack structure, leading to wilting. Maintaining the same moisture levels by watering more often when temperatures increase will help keep the roots cool and prevent stress.

Water in the early morning before the heat of the day kicks in, and again in the evening depending on your plants’ requirements and the soil they are planted in.

Use mulch

Mulch is an essential tool in the garden for regulating temperatures. Roots are sensitive structures that cannot handle major temperature fluctuations well, translating to problems with growth above the soil.

A thick layer of mulch helps keep the soil temperature consistent and as cool as possible when temperatures rise. It also helps retain moisture in the soil, limiting the increase in evaporation that occurs in summer and saving water.

Provide shade

While some of your plants may not grow well in shade on a normal day, they will appreciate a shadier afternoon spot during times of extreme heat. This limits cases of wilting and burning that can impact the leaves when exposed to the hot sun for too long.

Temporary shade is especially helpful in the vegetable garden, where sudden heat can cause fruits to drop prematurely and leafy plants to bolt. Create a shady structure with a few poles and light shade cloth to cover the plants during the early hours of the afternoon when the sun is most intense.

Move your pots

For those growing pots in containers, extreme heat can be especially tough. Soil in containers dries out incredibly quickly in the sun and, depending on the materials of your pot, the sides can get so warm that they end up burning any exposed roots.

Luckily, the portable nature of containers makes this issue an easy fix – move your pots to a shadier spot for the afternoon. This slows evaporation, stopping you from having to water multiple times a day, and protects the plants and the container from overheating.

Featured image: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels