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Worried about your plants during Oklahoma's ongoing heat wave? Here are some horticultural tips

 Garden bed.
Kateleigh Mills
Garden bed.

Triple-digit temperatures can make keeping your garden happy kinda hard. Not to mention there’s always the possibility of losing the investment you put into it in the spring.

Triple-digit temperatures can make keeping your garden happy kinda hard. Not to mention there’s always the possibility of losing the investment you put into it in the spring.

In my frantic decision-making mood I thought it would be a good idea to water both in the morning before the sun and at night to make sure my plants are staying hydrated. But apparently this could also be killing them?

Casey Hentges is an OSU Horticulture Extension Specialist and also the host of Oklahoma Gardening. She says it’s very common for people to panic around this time of year.

“The thing is, a lot of times plants are losing the moisture out of their leaves, but their roots have plenty of moisture down there,” Hentges said. “And so you can actually over water your plants really easily during this whole process.” 

So what’s her tip for checking to see if you need to water? Try sticking your finger in the ground or pot where you are thinking about watering. Is the soil dry or wet? Make your decisions from there. (I apparently have a long way to go in my green thumb skills – but that’s okay!)

“Plants need oxygen also and their roots take in air,” she said. “So if you put too much water you’re actually drowning your plant.”

Hentges says there is actually a benefit to having high humidity for our gardens. While we may be uncomfortable with the humidity - it can actually keep plants from releasing moisture.

Trying to get your plants through multiple triple digit days? Just remember some plants can’t move out of the sun - so try setting up a physical barrier like a shade cloth or patio umbrella temporarily.

 Casey Hentges
OSU Extension
Casey Hentges

Love hanging plants but they’re starting to look a little sad? Hentges says you can try hanging them under a tree for shade or bringing them under a patio or shaded area for a couple of days.

“With containers, hanging baskets - we have potting soil, which is different than soil that's in the ground,” she said. "And so sometimes those can dry out faster and obviously in hanging baskets, they're going to dry out faster because they're exposed a little bit more as well.”

As for plants in containers on pavement or sidewalks - think of it like this, if it’s too hot for your feet - it’s probably too hot for your plant.

“Some of the readings I've heard are just outrageous of what the temperatures are on concrete,” she said.

Hentges says you can move your containers onto grass to help keep the roots cool. Another tip is thinking about where the sun hits your home - morning sun is gentler than afternoon sun, so try moving your plants to accommodate their needs.

As we transition out of August, though, it’s important to keep in mind that plants are going to start wanting to shut down.

Hentges said this may be the last opportunity to fertilize. She says we don’t want to keep fertilizing past mid-to-late August because we want energy to be stored for growing next year.

She also says now is generally a good time to take a break in the garden as well. Hentges says you don’t need to mow as often or do any pruning. You don’t really need to worry too much about weeding either.

“The more you disturb the soil, whether you're tilling or you're just pulling plant weeds up, you're disrupting that soil profile that opens it up and allows more moisture to evaporate out of it.” 

That, at least, is a relief to hear.

You can catch Casey Hentges hosting Oklahoma Gardening on OETA on Saturdays at 11 and Sundays at 3.

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Copyright 2023 KOSU. To see more, visit KOSU.

Kateleigh Mills joined KOSU in March 2018, following her undergraduate degree completion from the University of Central Oklahoma in December 2017.