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Summers in the desert garden are hot. That’s no surprise. However, there are periods within these hot months that temperatures climb higher than normal. Because of this, we do need to help protect our gardens from the effects of a heatwave.

So, what is considered a heatwave in the low to mid-altitude desert? As a rule, when the mercury edges above 110 degrees F. During a heatwave, they can even go close to 120 degrees – ouch!

Thankfully, there are things you can do to help prepare the plants within your garden right now.

Here is my #1 tip…

Water your plants deeply the night before three – four day span of 110+ degree are forecast. This is in addition to your regular drip irrigation schedule.

The goal of this supplemental irrigation is to water deeply. This allow the soil to stay moister for longer, which will benefit your plants.

Under normal circumstances, I water my plants for 1 1/2 hours. However, in preparation of a heatwave, I water 2-3 hours. Plants will need more water in order to deal with the extreme temps and the extra water that will be lost to the atmosphere through their leaves.

Don’t do this every night, only every 4 days or so during a heatwave.

My second piece of advice…

Provide temporary shade for young plants in your landscape as they are more susceptible to stress from a heatwave.

This is because they don’t have a well-established root system to uptake much water and sparser foliage, so there aren’t many leaves to shade other parts of the plant.

Shade cloth is useful for protection lasting over several months. But for short-term shade during a heatwave, you can use burlap, sheets, an umbrella, or even place a patio chair over a susceptible plant. Uncover plants once temperatures are within the normal range.

Hot temperatures are a fact of life during the desert summer as are heatwaves. But, implementing one, or both, of these tips will help the plants in your garden.

For more tips for heat-proofing your garden, check out Heatproof Garden: 5 Amazing Tips.

Forecasts of a heatwave in the desert may seem a rather foreign concept when temperatures in summer are routinely over 100 degrees. However,  when temps are predicted to be 110 degrees and over, plants in landscapes that normally handle hot weather without complaint, can suffer.

preparation for heat proof garden

preparation for heat proof garden

The best preparation for heat-proofing your landscape begins before summer.  However, with the imminent arrival of a heatwave, here are two tips that will help your plants survive.

Provide extra water by irrigating shrubs and groundcovers in the early morning hours for an extra 1/2 hour when temperatures are forecast over 115 degrees.

1. Provide extra water by irrigating shrubs and groundcovers in the early morning hours for an extra 1/2 hour when temperatures are forecast over 115 degrees.

Plants can uptake water more easily in the early morning as opposed to being watered during the day.  During the heat of the day, plants have to devote much of their resources to handle the stress of the heat and cannot uptake water efficiently.  Therefore, it’s best to water early in the morning so that they are replenished with water and ready to face the excessive evaporation that will occur with temperatures over 115 degrees.

*It’s important not to overwater plants, so if the heatwave lasts more than three days, skip a day between providing extra water.

preparation for heat proof garden

2. Provide temporary shade for heat susceptible plants such as hibiscus or roses.

The sun’s intense rays are even more focused during a heatwave and can cause stress to the plant itself, including sunburn damage.  This is especially true for plants that receive hot, western sun or in areas that receive reflected heat.

For shrubs and groundcovers, leaves may wilt and turn brown in response to a heatwave.  Even cactus and other succulents can suffer sunburn or other heat stress, which often reveals itself as yellowing.

Temporary shade can be provided using sections of shade cloth.

preparation for heat proof garden

In a pinch, a lawn chair can work to add a welcome spot of shade for a plant.

Old sheets tied to posts, chairs or trees can also provide temporary shading until the heatwave subsides.

preparation for heat proof garden

As I mentioned earlier, the best way to handle a desert heatwave is wise planning including using native plants, mulch and the use of trees to provide shade.

In the meantime, escape the heat by hibernating indoors as much as possible 🙂

**You can read more about how to create a heat-proof garden in an earlier blog post.