Wednesday, July 07, 2010

What To Do Wednesday - Cover 'Em Up

Yeah, it's hot.  REALLY hot.  Last week we had three days over 110*degrees.  But that's what we expect in the summertime living in Phoenix.  The problem is, we plant things that don't expect to live in these kinds of heat conditions - especially vegetables.  
(sunburn on tomato fruit)
 Temperatures in the triple digits will surely cause irreparable damage like scalding on fruit, stems, and branches.  And don't be fooled thinking more water is needed.  Additional watering can exacerbate the problem, eventually, causing the plant to stress out and die. 
(dead branches and shriveled fruit of yellow pear tomato plant)
 Plants can't wear sunscreen and plants can move into the shade.  So it's up to you to cover 'em up!
Since the extreme heat only lasts about 12 weeks, I don't see the need for any bulky permanent sun protection structure in my garden.   So as a temporary solution, I set-up a simple shade cover tent.  I strategically placed some rebar and bamboo stakes into the ground (to drive them deep, you may want to pre-soak really good the day before).   Then I use binder clips to fasten my covers to the stakes.  
I prefer to use frost cover sheets instead of shade screen.  They are light and and easy to manage, and create an open greenhouse effect underneath.  Plus, given my sun exposure and location, the full blockage is necessary to minimize the stress to my delicate veggies.
It takes my about 5-10 minutes in the morning to put them up, and maybe 5minutes in the evening to take them down.  This routine also allows me time to inspect my plants and gives them some breathing time over night.
So plan you weekend project to protect your plants!