When temperatures linger above 90 degrees, young tender plants struggle to get enough water and nutrients to the leaves, buds and fruit. Soft fast growing plants need protection from hot afternoon sun so shading on their west side will reduce late day heat stress. Supported row covers, palm fronds, umbrellas, cardboard, bed sheets over hoops, lawn signs, covered tomato cages, tipi trellises, fencing, or lawn furniture can be artistically placed to cast afternoon shadows.
Whatever you construct, check that it’s strong enough to hold up to gusting winds. If possible, build your shade structures in the afternoon so you can see exactly where shadows fall between noon and 5 pm; the hottest time of day.
Young shallow roots need water but they also need protection from overheated soil. Rich dark moist garden soils absorb and hold more heat than dry light-colored soils. Covering dark soil with coarse wood chips, chopped stems or sticks will drop soil temperatures. Light-colored, lofty mulches like straw reflect light and heat even better.
It’s easy to relax with a running hose and overwater. To avoid overwatering, and leaching away valuable nutrients, poke your finger in the soil. If the soil feels damp below the surface, you likely have enough water. Wilted, curled, burned or pale leaves, dropped blossoms, shriveled fruit or low vigor are all signs of heat stress.
Make water observation and conservation a way of life and prepare for upcoming restrictions. Because the Metropolitan Water District will be repairing a major pipe, no outdoor watering will be allowed in Burbank from September 6th through the 20th.