Spring and Autumn (Fall) are traditionally the seasons for planting out seedlings, potted plants and bulbs. Yet all the creative work doesn’t need to be relegated to these two times – summer and winter plantings can be just as successful.
Most gardeners fail to establish plants in the hotter months because they employ the same methods they would use in the more temperate periods. While it may seem logical to protect winter installations with a warm cloche, preparing and protecting summer plantings from the extreme climate is often undervalued.
So, to debunk a few gardening myths, planting in the heat of summer is possible provided you take a few extra steps.
- Plant after dawn or before dusk – obviously the coolest times of the day are the most likely periods for your plant’s success. Neither dawn nor dusk are better than the other but both have their own liabilities.
For instance, if you plant in the morning your seedlings have to face a whole day of beating the heat before getting any respite. Dusk plantings, however, must contend with their first night in the ground fending off snails, slaters and other garden pests bent on devouring their tasty leaves. Both problems can be overcome but for your plant’s success you need to be aware of the obstacles.
- Water well – just as the cloche provides protection against the winter elements, water is the friend of summer plantings. For the first week, water your plant at least twice a day before the sun gets to its peak or towards dusk. Then for the next month, keep watering it on a daily basis until it’s showing signs of becoming established with new growth.
- Soak before transplanting – one method I often use is to soak seedling punnets or pot plants in a bucket of water before planting out. Hold them under the water until all the air bubbles subside and the pot or punnet now has some weight to it. This ensures that the roots will have a readily available water source to help cope with transplant shock.
- Save the ice for the martini – one of the big myths of summer plantings is to surround your plant with ice cubes. The rationale behind this is that the heat will eventually melt the ice providing a slow water source for the plant. The reasoning sounds good but in essence it would be the same as observing your plant piled with snow in the winter – it will inevitably freeze the soil, or the plant, or both.
- Use slow-release water gels – if watering your new plant sounds too onerous then provide it with a water bulb or some slow-release water gels. Gels come in handy recyclable packaging and give your plants just the amount they need.
A word of warning with these products is that if your plants are in full-sun all day then the likelihood of them heating up could be disastrous for your plants. Restrict your use of these to container plants or shade-lovers.
- Protect with shade cloth – while plastic has the ability to contain and employ heat, shade cloth has the opposite effect. Many of our exotic trees are encased with a shade cloth sleeve to filter the amount of light they get during the hottest months but also to protect them against summer winds. This gives them a much better chance of survival by shielding them from the elements.
As you can see, planting in the heat is not impossible and can be very successful provided you take steps to ensure your plant’s well-being. Happy gardening.