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“Some gardeners live in climates with extremely hot summers, where daily temperatures frequently exceed 90, or even 100 degrees. If this is your situation, summer may be the most difficult season for your garden, instead of winter.
“Extreme heat is not only stressful for many plants, but it can actually make many of them go dormant and stop growing – even if they are kept well watered. High heat can also keep plants from setting any fruit because extremely hot temperatures can kill the pollen. Other crops will bolt and go to seed extremely quickly.
[Lorraine here to say the above information is priceless. I wondered why my tomato plants stopped blooming.]
1. FOCUS ON PLANTS THAT LOVE THE HEAT.
Look for those vegetables that were bred for the desert, the southern states, or the tropics. These include: tomatoes, eggplant, melons, peppers, malabar spinach, cowpeas, and lima beans. Sweet potatoes, okra, and southern peas can handle the most heat.
However, even many of these plants may drop their blossoms and stop setting fruit when the temperatures regularly exceed 90 degrees F. Look for varieties that may have been bred to continue fruiting in extreme heat.
2. KEEP YOUR PLANTS WELL-WATERED.
Although in some situations you may need to water daily, it’s very important to water your plants deeply – a minimum of 6 inches down – at least once a week for clay soils, and twice a week for sandy ones. Don’t guess – check your soil moisture level by using a trowel to dig 6” down.
5. GIVE YOUR PLANTS SOME SHADE.
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.
Many gardeners in extremely hot climates have found that providing about 30-40% shade usually works best. Even tomatoes, peppers, and squashes can benefit from shade cloth in desert climates.
[Lorraine here to say I’m grateful I planned ahead and prepared the shade cloth sheltered area.]
6. AVOID SURROUNDING YOUR GARDEN BEDS WITH CRUSHED STONE, BRICK, OR CONCRETE PATHS.
Brick, stone, and concrete will absorb heat and keep your garden hotter during the summer.
These will absorb extra heat and continue to release it after the sun sets – the equivalent of the “urban heat island” effect in your garden. Your garden will also be hotter if you place it up against an unshaded south or west side of buildings (in the northern hemisphere). You can keep your garden cooler by surrounding your garden beds with lawn grass or organic mulch.