4 Ways To Help Your Plants Survive A Heatwave

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Survivopedia plants and heatwave

Plants need sunshine to grow, but when the temperatures are too hot, your plants feel the impact. They can wilt, wither, and eventually die from too much heat.

The best way to prepare your plants is to incorporate protection into your garden plan. You can look for local plant varieties that are proven in your area’s weather.

On your hottest days, you’ll still need to take extra precautions, but picking the right kinds will give your plants a better chance.

You should also plan your garden for heat. Sun map your plot so you know what areas get the most sun. Use taller plants to offer shade to smaller ones. Add trees to your master plan, and use the shade they offer wisely as you plan.

Even if you haven’t planned for hot days, there are steps you can take to protect your plants from a heatwave. These will help ensure you don’t lose your harvest.


wateringThe roots of plants take up water and it’s delivered to the rest of the plant through a variety of veins.

It takes energy for the plant to get the water where it needs to go.

During the hottest part of the day, plants are expending energy simply staying alive in the heat.

They don’t have the energy they need to efficiently move water through their veins.

Mid-day watering may reach the roots, but it’s not likely to travel up the plant to where it’s most needed.

So when you water, make sure it’s in the early morning or evening when the temperatures are a bit lower. This way your watering efforts aren’t wasted.

Since the roots have to get the water, drip irrigation systems help deliver the water where it’s needed. When you water from above, it’s harder for the roots to get as much water. They’re competing with the other plants or weeds in the area, and with evaporation from the sun.

You’re also more likely to cause runoff when you water with a traditional hose or sprinkler. The dry ground takes time to absorb the water. If you apply too much water too quickly, it’ll get the top soil wet and then runoff.

Drip irrigation allows you to slowly water the top soil, and the soil the roots are actually growing in. You want to get that water about 18 inches into the ground. That way the roots can continue to use it once you’ve stopped watering.

During the hottest days, you don’t want to overwater your plants. Moist soil and hot days offer the perfect environment for a variety of fungi and other plant problems. Overwatering encourages their growth.

Plan on soaking your garden once a week, and always test the soil for moisture before watering. Wilted leaves aren’t always a sign that more water is needed. Sometimes, plants wilt in the sun just because of the heat. If your wilted plants look better in the cool evening, they aren’t in need of water.

If you find certain plants do need more water, you don’t need to water everything to save that plant. Just spot water, allowing the water to penetrate the ground into the roots. Applying water correctly will help your plants survive in the heat.

Soil & Mulch

Now that we’ve tackled water, let’s talk about soil and mulch. Some soil holds water better than others. If you have a sandy garden, you’ll probably need to water more often.

Take steps like applying compost to improve your soil, so keep your compost pile going strong to give your plants what they need.

No matter the state of your soil, a good layer of mulch will help hold in water. It’ll also help prevent weeds from growing. That’ll mean fewer plants will be competing for water.

You can use a variety of materials to mulch your garden. By using what you have on hand, you can keep your costs really low. Gardeners have used a thick layer of newspaper, straw, wood shavings, dried grass clippings, or cardboard to mulch plants.

If you use a light colored mulch, you’ll also help keep the sun’s rays from heating the soil too much. A lower temperature in the soil means your plants are more likely to survive.


Pruning & Fertilizing

A heatwave is not the time for pruning or fertilizing your plants. Both of these activities cause a burst of growth. Your plant will put all of its energy into growing, and won’t be as able to withstand the heat.

You also risk your plant absorbing the fertilizer too quickly, and burning as a result. So save your fertilizing (even with natural fertilizer) for a cooler day.

If you have wilted leaves, don’t prune them off until the heatwave passes. The leaves offer a bit of shade to the stem of the plant, and can help protect it.


Shade offers much relief to a hot plant. Shade keeps the direct sunlight off of your plants. It’ll also help them lower their temperature, and increase their defenses

For plants that are in containers, planters, or pots, move them into the shade is possible. For plants that are unmovable, you’ll need to look for other ways to get them shaded.

How to Create Shadow for Your Plants

If your garden lacks natural shade from taller plants or trees, you can easily set up some temporary patches using one of these methods:

Cardboard and Stakes

Use stiff cardboard and stakes to set up shade wherever you need it. You can cut the cardboard to the size you need. Then use a heavy duty stapler to attach it to your wooden stakes.

Pound the stake in the ground around your most delicate plants, and they’ll get instant shade. This set-up is inexpensive, easily installed, and highly portable.

Lawn Chairs

If you’re caught with an unexpected heatwave, you can use your patio furniture to protect your plants. Just carefully set up a lawn chair to provide protection. Because of the legs, you may not be able to use this in all garden setups.

If you don’t have any lawn chairs, look around your property for items that are easily moveable and don’t weigh too much. You don’t want to compact your soil as you make shade. Here are some ideas that I’ve used in my garden:

  • A laundry basket
  • A cardboard box
  • A plant pot

Shade Cloths

You can buy shade cloths online or in your local garden center. You can attach this to posts in your garden, or to stakes.

If you’re using dark colored shade cloth, keep an eye on your soil temperatures. If the cloth is too close to the ground, you can inadvertently bake your plants.

Paper Bags

You can gently pull a paper bag over your plants. You’ll want to staple or tape the end closed to keep it from flying off.

You don’t want to obstruct air flow for too long however, so be sure to remove these bags as soon as the heat of the day has passed.

Wood Lattice with Bricks

If you have a piece of wood lattice and bricks, you can make shade. You’ll want to make four stacks of bricks, one for each corner of the lattice. Place these where you need it, and then set the lattice on top. This method is especially useful for newly sown seeds and low crops.

What Plants Need Shade the Most?

If you aren’t able to shade your entire garden, you’ll want to prioritize your plants. Some plants will bolt if they overheat, while others may wither a bit, but will bounce back.

Here are some of the plants you’ll want to be extra careful with in a heatwave:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Cilantro
  • Cauliflower and Broccoli
  • Any cool weather crops

If your area is typically hot, you should hold off planting these heat-sensitive plants until closer to fall’s cooler weather. During the hot sun, plant your heat-loving plants like tomatoes, corn, and melons. That way you take advantage of natural growing patterns that each plant needs.


Wilted Plants

Sometimes even with your tender loving care, plants wilt. It’s a reaction when the plant leaves are shedding water faster than the roots can get it up the stem. It’s a natural phenomenon similar to the way humans sweat. It helps the plants protect themselves.

Smaller, or freshly transplanted plants are more likely to wilt in the sun. That’s because their root system isn’t as established yet.

Usually, your plants will bounce back on their own once the temperatures drop. You’ll notice that they look normal in the evenings, and then wilt when the sun returns to high in the sky.

If your plants are still wilted in the evening, double check that their soil is moist. If not, give the thirsty plant a nice long drink to saturate the roots.

If watering doesn’t help, you’ll also want to ensure that you aren’t dealing with root rot. This can cause wilting leaves as well.

Is it hot where you are?

What are your best tips for keeping your garden growing strong even in the summer heat? I know our readers would love to hear what works for you, so please share in the comment section.


This article has been written by Lisa Tanner for Survivopedia.

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About Lisa Tanner

Lisa Tanner loves living life down on the family farm with her husband and their seven children. She spends her day tackling farm chores, homeschooling the kids, and growing her freelance writing career.In her free time, Lisa loves cooking, reading, and trying to learn new skills. You can find her blogging over at Maggie's Milk.
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  1. Hi Lisa! You know, I wouldn't mind being a sounding board on gardening and plants before you submit your articles. So much is correct but there are some errors as well. Such as: water...NEVER WATER at night, early in the day, water deeply, and all during a very hot day will evaporate, dissipate and fungus won't be a problem (unless in a green house, in microenvironments that hold water vapor around the plants like those bags)...the bag idea is good only if all one can do is the bags. Watering very deeply and allowing the soil to dry out (might only be a half of a day, a day or days) is critical before watering again. The very best way is shade cloth like you discussed, that does need a structure to be used and/or taken off at night and people just don't like the work...nor do they understand that temperatures upwards of 90 degrees stops growth more quickly than temps below 45 degrees. Ventilation is critical. Overhead watering is wonderful to reduce temperatures and it has been proven that water droplets and magnifying light enough to burn is pretty lame. Yes it can happen but the benefits to cool the environment with overhead watering far out weigh any boo boos from droplets on the leaves...which in very hot weather just will disappear too quickly. Fertilizing is not relevant at all. Plants need certain chemicals as you well know to function. That is all we humans are doing is adding stuff we have either taken out of the soils or because we are replacing the natural long lived cycles so we can have our cake and eat it too. Soil tests and knowing the signs of deficiencies or excess of chemicals (I hate saying nutrients because we know that these chemicals are not food and when we say nutrients people only imagine FEEDING plants and that is a very bad knowledge base and and and fertilizer is a science, more is NOT better) Now the powdery mildew which thrives with high humidity without free water (such as beneath the eaves or porch roofs that limit free water on plants) is THE biggest promoter of this fungus. I mean dry leaves with high humidity is GOING to make powdery mildew. Luckily it is one of the FEW or at one time I thought the only fungus that can be controlled AFTER a plant has been infected... is so very easy to control. But one has to be ON TASK. I tried the 1:9 milk and water spray and was blown away at the effectiveness!! Then there is my favorite pesticide, NEEM. I will not use it unless absolutely necessary and that is as strong as I'll get ever! Also, for major major fungicide problems, Serenade is the last straw. Only used it once but not on edibles.

    No one (I don't care what the labels say for this instance as they vary from manufacturer to manufacturer) should spray NEEM or Serenade during the day with active pollinators. At night only or in a greenhouse environment.

    VENTILATION VENTILATION VENTILATION...using the biggest fans one can get and pruning to get rid of excess vegetation that hampers free air flow...is critical. Especially in green houses. I'll use big fans in the garden as well if the humidity gets too high and there is no wind. Plants will also bolt if the temperatures at night versus day change from very cold to very hot and back. I live in the most stupid zone I could imagine with the worst NON soil of pumice. Talk about making me (and my poor hubby) work our butts off just to grow salad greens!! Got a new green house being built over the floor/garden and trying to watch freezes at night (happens even in July).

    And off the subject, I applaud you home schooling your children!! I used to do bah humbug...but when I saw the difference in kids from public schools and a home schooled child I WAS BLOWN AWAY. I can even detect home schooled young people on these blogs, comments!! Kudos kudos Lisa! Screw having to make MONEY!! What you are doing is far far far superior to being a 'working woman in offices or even construction'...I know this, now. Had no choice. I'd hire a homeschooler if I could do it all over again. Sigh. Huggs.

  2. Patricia says:

    I enjoyed the article on the gardening but I had to laugh when I read about the Hundred Year drought. People should read their Bible. God says he's going to destroy the world by fire. We are a water Planet hydrogen and oxygen. It's the end times God is heating up the planet from the core. There is global warming from the inside out. There is no way to stop it. God said He will do it.
    Are YOU ready? You don't want to be here when the end comes. Jesus provided a way out Look to Him to get you out.



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