Protecting Plants From the Elements

July 3, 2016 lawanda Newspaper Columns

      July brings weather challenges to the garden – strong winds, torrential rains, hail and hot sun.  These can take a toll on flower and vegetable gardens, but there are some things you can do to protect plants from harsh weather.

      First, watch the weather forecast daily.  If you don’t know what’s coming, you won’t have time to prepare.

      Strong winds can not only knock plants down and shred their leaves, they can desiccate them, leaving them thirsting for water.  When wind is in the forecast, use anything you have to create a barrier around the plants.  I’ve used piles of bricks and stones, boards, and cloth or plastic clothes-pinned to temporary fencing.  Be certain your barrier is sturdy so it won’t fall and crush the very plants you are trying to protect.  Container plants should be moved next to buildings, preferably on the leeward side, but any wall will help somewhat, even if just to prevent containers from blowing over. 

      If you missed protecting plants from harsh winds and they look bedraggled, cut off broken stems, carefully prop the plants back up, and make sure they have sufficient water.

      Hail can punch holes in large-leaved plants like squash, rhubarb, hostas, canna lilies and other tropical plants.  Cover plants with five-gallon buckets, bushel baskets or even weighted blankets if the plants are strong enough to support them.  Move container plants under tables, benches or building overhangs. Hail won’t likely kill the plants, but they’ll never look as nice as they did before the storm.

      Heavy rain can beat plants down and leave them in saturated soil.  Fragile plants can be covered as for hail, or if in containers, moved to a protected area.  Don’t worry too much about saturated soil, unless water is still standing atop the soil a day later.  Bail it out if it’s in a sunken area, or dig a trench to direct water away.

      If you’ve taken advantage of late season clearance plant sales or have gotten a late start on your vegetable garden, the late comers will need protection from the hot sun at first.  Use boards, lattice, shade cloth, or even old sheer curtains on sunny days for at least the first couple weeks to protect the plants until they become acclimated to the heat and brighter light.

      Tomato and pepper plants stop producing when temperatures climb into the nineties.  A natural hormone spray called Blossom Set supports plants through the hottest days and allows them to continue to produce.  When temperatures climb, spray directly into the blossoms and adjacent foliage.  Repeat every one to two weeks if hot weather continues.

      Protecting plants from the weather sounds like a lot of work, but I’ve always enjoyed tucking my garden in ahead of a storm and then uncovering it when the storm is over, glad that I took the time to protect plants in which I’ve already invested so much care.

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