Cindy Olive, Master Gardener
WOW! Is it HOT outside or what? It’s surely too hot to be out in the garden…and your plants might just be thinking the same thing! So, what can you do about it? How can you help your flowers and vegetable gardens endure this intense summer heat?
Proper watering is the first answer. By “proper” I mean at the right time - mornings or evenings, and in the right amounts – longer periods of watering encourage the roots to grow to a deeper level of the soil. It also helps if you can deliver the water using drip irrigation or soaker hoses (a quick and easy alternative to installing an irrigation system).
Besides the suggestion of effective watering techniques, there is something that should be a part of EVERY garden…and that is MULCH! There are four basic advantages to using mulch in every garden area of your home. First of all, it helps the soil to retain moisture by reducing evaporation from the soil surface. Many of the native soils we have in our yards consist of sand, caliche, or some other type which is not able to hold much moisture for any length of time. Second, mulch can substantially reduce the soil temperature, helping your plants to not become quite as stressed when our temperatures soar over 100° for days on end! It acts as a layer of insulation protecting the actual soil. The third positive attribute about mulch is that it minimizes the weed population in your garden areas. This means you do not have to spend as much time outdoors in the sweltering summer days eradicating all that unwanted vegetation. Fourth and final big plus is that the layer of the mulch which is in contact with the soil, slowly begins to break down over time, allowing organic material to become a part of the soil. This assists the root zone by adding nutrients available for absorption and also provides an increase in the soil’s ability to retain water.
Now, when I speak of adding mulch to your garden, I do not mean applying a thin veneer of ½- 1” so that your yard looks pretty. That was the mistake I made early on in my gardening ‘career’. And with our lovely West Texas winds, that sure didn’t have much staying power in my gardens! The layer of mulch recommended is about 3-4” to have any of the positive affects mentioned above. And with this greater thickness, it has a better chance of staying in place. What style of mulch you choose is up to you. You owe it to your plants to take care of them the best way you know how…so STAY COOL AND MULCH ON!
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.