Hurricane Preparedness in the Garden: Pt. 4
Part 4 of a 4-part series
By Bob Randall, Ph.D.
Our summers have been getting hotter. Most plants stop growing at 90˚ F or even lower. Our early summer planted vegetables like sweet potatoes and okra will grow, and pears will survive because nights and mornings are cooler. Also, not growing doesn’t mean dying unless the pests find them.
Nutrients, proteins in seeds, DNA, as well pollen and hormones stop working between 90-105˚F, and most plants even if well-watered are dead at 115˚F. But there is still much that can be done below this if there is enough water.
Above 90˚F, plants use water mainly to cool themselves, and if their roots are small or the soil is dry, they have a hard time doing this. The result is that leaves start wilting, then turning brown, then falling off. Obviously providing enough water to the roots is important whether from rain tank, pump, or tap. But equally important is mulch.
There is no benefit if the soil is evaporating water rather than transpiring it through plant leaves. So, mulch heavily. In very hot weather, 3-4 inches is minimum. Make sure that early in the day, the soil is damp under the mulch.
Good mulches do this job—insulate the soil—and have other benefits like biological activity, lack of weed seeds, and are organic. In this case it needs to be thick enough to keep the soil damp.
Hay is relatively easy to lay thickly but may contain weed seeds or herbicides, and native mulch is longest lasting, organic, and best for the soil, but heavier to move from a driveway in hot weather and costly even when bought in bulk. Either is cheaper than city water-bills and for fruit trees essential if you want good production quickly.
About the Author:
Bob Randall, PhD. is a food systems anthropologist and permaculture designer with a five-decade involvement in food systems both as a researcher, educator, and activist. He helped found and direct Urban Harvest for 14 years and is a board officer of both OHBA-Organic Educators and the Permaculture Institute of North America.
Check out his book, Year Round Food Gardening for Houston and Southeast Texas, to learn more about climate resilient gardening.