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Garden on the Defensive – Surviving Extreme Weather

Few things are more disheartening than putting your soul into your garden, only to have it wrecked by cases of extreme weather.  However testing it may be, don’t let the weather be victorious.  By meticulously following the forecast, you can take preventative steps to help protect your crops from devastations such as hailstorms, blistering heat, and frost.

Camp Harbor View garden programExtreme Heat

Challenging heat waves can yield hefty setbacks in your garden, especially if some of your crops are already struggling.  Defending your garden from heat damage can be quite simple – just don’t forget to be mindful of your own needs when you are gardening in 100 degree weather – you can’t take care of a garden if you aren’t taking care of yourself!

  • Ensure that your plants are getting enough water, as you should expect your garden to need at least twice as much water as a normal day.  This tip may be the most obvious one when your garden is under extreme heat, but be sure not to overwater after your soil has dried out too much – this can cause your crops to split.
  • Cover your soil with a thin, 2-4” layer of mulch and a shade cloth to help keep your garden cooler and prevent it from drying out.
  • Ripe fruit will consume much water.  By harvesting frequently – including your damaged crops – you are alleviating stress from the plant to provide water to the fruits.

Hail

A ten-minute hailstorm can devastate an entire garden, making it arguably the most demoralizing of extreme weather.  If you live in an area that hosts many a hailstorm – such as the plains states – a little pre-storm preparation could save your bounty.

  • Keep your garden well fertilized.  Healthy and robust plants will likely be able to make it through the storm.
  • Place row covers on your low-growing plants to halt or slow down hail.  In many cases, this method will not be enough to protect the plants entirely, as hailstones can rip through row cover materials.  However, taking this extra precaution will greatly lessen the damage to your garden.
  • Install hardware cloth over your tall-growing plants to deflect hail away from your crops.

Frost

Though frosts can make certain crops taste better, it can also be very damaging to new growth.  Plan ahead before a frost is expected so that you can protect susceptible plants from frost damage.

  • GCG-cold-frameStray away from fertilizing your plants.  Fertilizers that are rich in nitrogen will grow softer plants, making them more prone to frost damage.
  • Cover your garden beds with two layers of horticultural fleece before a frost is expected.
  • Overwinter your crops before applying any insulation technique to your garden, and never transplant outside without hardening off your plants.

There is much to be said for planning for the forecast.  Even a little bit of prevention will go a long way – and if nothing else, you can use your damaged crops to make jam, sauce, or pesto.  You can also invest in a Green City Growers cold frame to make overwintering easier and your plants more vigorous, as well as extend your growing season to make up for crops that were lost to weather damage.

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