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La Niña - It's Going to Be a Hot One!

Temperatures hotter than ever are expected this season in the Mountain West according to new federal climate forecasts. There is a 60-70% chance of temperatures being higher in Utah and parts of Colorado. All of Idaho, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming have a 50-60% chance of above-average heat. Less-than-average precipitation is expected as well.

Gardeners can take several measures to prepare for the upcoming hot and dry conditions:

  1. Water Deeply, and Extra When Needed

Consistent and deep watering is crucial during periods of high heat and low precipitation. Ensure that your plants receive water that penetrates deeply into the soil, to encourage strong root systems. Watering deeply but less frequently is more beneficial than shallow watering more often. Keep an eye on the soil moisture and adjust watering schedules as needed, especially during heatwaves.

  1. Mulch

Mulching involves layering material on the soil surface. The main reason is to conserve soil moisture–it is AMAZING what some soil cover can do 😳
Your garden will also benefit from improved soil health and fertility, as well as reduced weed growth. Mulch can also improve the appeal of your garden!
Popular types include:

Popular types include:

  • Leaves
  • Straw
  • Wood chips

Aim for a layer 2-4 inches thick. At this point in the season, some of these materials may be hard to find. Get innovative!

  • Newspaper - Avoid any glossy ads. Shredded newspaper works well, or if weed suppression is your objective, lay it flat.
  • Cardboard - Remove tape and staples. Avoid boxes with a glossy coat or a lot of ink. The craft brown is ideal.
  • Grass clippings - Ensure they are from an untreated lawn.

Top it off with wood chips for the best results! For more detailed guidance, you can refer to resources like eOrganic's mulching guide.

  1. Install Shade Structures

Providing shade can significantly reduce the stress on your plants. Shade cloths, rigged sheets, or curtains can protect sensitive plants from the harshest sun. These structures can be set up using simple frameworks or existing garden structures. Adjust the placement and angle to ensure optimal coverage during the hottest parts of the day.

  1. Work with Natural Shade

Utilize the natural shade in your garden by planting heat-sensitive plants in areas that receive partial shade. Before you transplant all of your seedlings be sure to observe how sunlight moves across your garden and make use of any existing trees, fences, or buildings that can provide natural shade.

  1. Try a Fast-Growing Crop to Add Shady Areas to Your Garden

5. Try a Fast-Growing Crop to Add Shady Areas to Your Garden
Fast-growing plants can provide temporary shade for other plants in your garden. Consider planting broomcorn (also known as sorghum) strategically to create shady patches.

Corn can also be a great option. While it may not be knee-high by July 4th if planted now, it will offer some shade from August through September. Plus, you get to enjoy the harvest! If you haven’t tried growing it before, it’s pretty magical. Just follow the directions on the packet—including the tip to plant corn in groups rather than rows to aid in pollination–not to mention increase its tolerance to wind.

  1. Stay on Top of the Weeds

Weeds compete with your garden plants for water and nutrients, which is especially problematic during hot and dry conditions. Weed your garden regularly to ensure your plants have access to the resources they need. Mulching can also help reduce weed growth, making this task more manageable.

Additional Tips

  • Water in the Early Mornings or Evenings: This helps the soil retain moisture and reduces water loss due to evaporation.
  • Monitor Soil Moisture: Use a soil moisture meter to keep track of how much water your plants are receiving and adjust your watering routine accordingly.
  • Consider Drought-Resistant Plants: If you're planning for the future, consider integrating drought-resistant plants that are better suited for hot and dry conditions.

By taking these proactive steps, you can help your garden thrive even in the face of challenging weather conditions. Remember, a well-prepared garden is a resilient garden!