Fortunately, that merciless heat wave has passed. What will you do when the next one arrives? Here are five ways to keep you and your plants from wilting.
1. Mulch. A three-inch topping of mulch keeps plant roots cool, conserves water and inhibits weeds. Of course, lugging bags of bark chips or cedar shavings is not what you want to do when it’s hot and humid, so take advantage of the cooler weather and perform this task now. Find all colors and kinds at the big-box stores, or pick up free Long Beach city mulch every Wednesday and Friday from 9:30am to 3pm at 2702 California Ave. This is a self-service operation– bring your own bags, shovels, and gloves.
2. Hydrate. This applies to both you and your plants. When it’s super hot outside, delay planting seeds or transplants. But if you must do it, soak the plant thoroughly in the pot, then flood the planting hole before you put the plant in the ground. Continue to irrigate consistently during the heat wave. And you? Keep a bottle of water handy and guzzle it frequently; pour some on a bandanna and wrap it around your neck.
3. Cover. Again, this is an activity that both you and your plants can share. Take a tip from intrepid gardener Shoshanah Siegel, who with husband Bill Schecter grows abundant vegetables in two beautiful backyard raised beds. As you can see by the accompanying photo, she uses umbrellas to shade her bounty. And you? Get a big hat, and shelter under it.
4. Move. Shift container plants to shadier areas until the weather cools.
5. Soak. If you haven’t gotten around to #4, your hanging baskets and other containers can fry quickly. If that happens, soak the whole thing, basket and all, in a bucket of cool water. Submerge it and leave it there for 10 to 15 minutes. Put it in the shade to dry a bit. Trim the scorched bits back to healthy foliage. With a little TLC, it may rejuvenate.
I’m working my way though the Long Beach Public Library’s collection of gardening books. My two latest: The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere and Emilee Gettle, and What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden? by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth. If you’re a fan of Baker Creek, the delightful heirloom seed company, you’ll enjoy the first book. The second takes a vegetable-by-vegetable look at many issues and provides organic solutions and helpful pictures.
Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California and Edible Gardening for California.