Here in Colorado we jumped from a rainy, cold May straight into the dog days of summer. Out comes the shade cloth, sun tea, and strategies for keeping your garden (and you) thriving. Here are some things I keep in mind during the hot summer months.
First, I harvest early and often. Plants recharge overnight, and in the cool of the morning they are full of life and water again, giving you the best flavor and shelf life, not to mention a lot less stress for you and the plant. Since plants strive to reproduce by creating fruit with seeds, harvesting that fruit redirects their energy to producing more flowers and fruit. So if you harvest plants like zucchini and snap beans often, imagine how many zucchini muffins you can make for your friends and neighbors!
I also successively sow throughout the summer months. In general, crops germinate best in soil temperatures under 85°F, but squash, melons, cucumbers, pumpkin, and corn are my “go-tos” when looking for warm temperature germination. If your soil is hot, hot, hot and you want to grow cool season crops, consider starting them inside, hardening them off, and transplanting them just like you do in the spring. Our sowing guides are very helpful for planning. In the case of cool season crops like lettuce, spinach, and carrots, look for heat-tolerant varieties or sow them where they will get the benefit of late afternoon shade from another plant. You may also want to review our article, Edibles for Partial Shade for ideas on what crops produce well in shade.
Lastly, water and fertilize wisely. The best time to water and use liquid fertilizer or foliar feed is in the morning. If you live in an area with low humidity, evening is also a good choice. High humidity areas are more likely to have fungus issues and so the prolonged overnight period is best spent dry. Plants recharge in the morning and shut down in the mid-day high heat. Water also evaporates more quickly in the high heat making your effort to fertilize and water less effective.
Using these best practices should keep your garden producing and you enjoying it!