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Growing a garden is a wonderful thing to do. It provides a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance, as well as fresh, nutritious food. It cuts down on personal food miles, makes good use of our lawns, and helps pollinators with lots of flowers for foraging. Studies have proven that the act of growing gardening, not just the harvest, is physically and mentally healthy.
That said, gardens can also be a lot of work and occasionally cause a bit of stress. Gardeners spend a lot of time sowing seeds, cultivating seedlings into mature plants, and keeping those plants healthy. There is soil to enhance, diseases to contend with, and pests to thwart. It’s all worth it and even fun, but that’s not to say it isn’t work.
As the global climate shifts, local weather has become more erratic and more severe. Inclement weather, in some form or fashion, has become a serious concern for gardeners everywhere. Scary forecasts have become the status quo, and really bad weather can destroy a garden in an afternoon. How do we protect our gardens?
Basic Precautions for All
Some sensible precautions can be taken to protect plants in general, whether facing gusty thunderstorms, unexpected frosts, or complete downpours.
- Lots of us are growing in containers these days, particularly when space is limited. When potentially devastating weather is coming in, it’s good practice to move those container plants to shelter.
- While vining plants like tomatoes and beans are commonly staked, often tall plants like peppers and corn are left out in the wind (so to speak). Staking tall plants can help them stay upright in stormy weather. Growing these plants vertically also opens up more garden space
- Using thick organic mulch is a good idea on so many levels. It is also great for helping with extreme weather conditions. It helps prevent soil from drying out. It prevents rain from compacting the soil. It insulates from heat, and it insulates from cold. Keep 2-4 inches of straw, leaves, or hay on those garden beds.
Strong wind can rip a garden to shreds, especially taller plants, so it helps to prepare for them.
- If strong winds are common or coming to your garden, set up wind barriers around it. This might be standing a few straw bales around the beds. It could be putting landscape cloth on the fence around the garden. It could mean—long-term—growing a windbreak to stunt prevailing winds.
- For large plants and shrubs that are standing largely alone, wrapping them in tarps, burlap, or old sheets can prevent limb breakage.
Heavy rain is happening more often, and in more places, than at any time in recent history. It can beat plants to death and/or drown them.
- If heavy rains are coming, it makes sense to cover young plants with fabric that is staked down so as not to blow away. For larger plants, the porous fabric can be suspended over the crops to ease the blasts of water.
- Anywhere rain is common and hard rain is unsurprising, raised beds are helpful. They have good drainage and will keep plants from being submerged in floods or washed away.
The last decade has been the hottest one on record. Heat waves seemingly are here to stay.
- When the sun is blazing, providing the garden with some shade can prevent plants from drying up and wilting under pressure. Just stake up or suspend some old, light-colored sheets over the garden during heatwaves.
- Extreme heat and sun can dry out the soil, as well as leaves. The best way to keep plants hydrated is to water them deeply in the morning. Watering during the heat is hard on a plant, so do it early before things move to sweltering.
Contrary to the increasing rains, places are experiencing longer droughts than normal, too.
- When in a drought, it’s important to avoid feeding and overwatering plants. They will go into a protective, dormant state during this time, but feeding and overwatering will confuse things. They should stay dormant until the drought has passed.
- A good way to help plants going through a drought is to prune selectively. Taking away extra foliage and dead or dying parts will mean the plant has less biomass to care for. That can provide some relief when supplies are slim.
In summer things are getting hotter, in the spring, fall, and winter, random cold fronts are becoming equally extreme.
- When cold fronts are coming, sensitive plants appreciate a bit of insulation. Mulching garden soil helps with cold, but extreme temperatures may require temporary mulch high around or even over plants. Remove the mulch it warms a little.
- Sheltering garden beds with tarps or old sheets for frosty nights or a frigid day or two can keep plants a touch warmer which may save them.
The woeful weather is only going to be getting worse shortly, so it only makes sense to begin gardening and designing our gardens with that in mind. Protecting our plants now and again can be the difference between awesome harvests and ragged plants.
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