Managing Plant Heat Stress
When the temperature soars it's often hard to think past our own discomfort, but, just like you would for your pets, spare a thought for your plants.
Plants naturally evaporate water from the underside of their leaves, releasing it with oxygen as by-products of their photosynthesis. In extreme heat, this evaporative process speeds up and they consume more water - but water is also evaporating from the soil at a greater rate, and often the water available isn't enough to meet the plant's needs.
The drier your plant becomes, the more damage is done to the plant cells. This makes your plant more susceptible to sunburnt leaves, or even death. To try to manage the damage being caused, your plant will try to reduce its exposure to the sun - this may be by:
- Wilting: This is one of the best early indicators, as the plant tries to decrease the surface area exposed directly to the sun before permanent damage is done.
- Dropping leaves: If the stress to your plant increased, it may drop some of its leaves. This reduces the area that water can evaporate from, conserving the moisture to help keep the plant alive.
- Dropping flowers or fruit: If your plant is flowering or fruiting, it will also prematurely drop its flowers or fruit. Producing flowers and fruit is very taxing for a plant's energy levels, so stopping this process can conserve enough energy to see the plant through.
So, if you notice that your plants are struggling, what can you do to help?
- Water: While this might seem obvious, there are a few things to consider in extremely hot circumstances. While you may usually wait until early morning or evening to water for the most effective absorption, if you see a plant in trouble in the middle of the day, it needs water immediately - it may be dead within a few hours!
When you're watering, remember that the plant needs a good soak, not a light spray. If you water your plants or lawn and the water seems to just run off, turn the hose or sprinkler off for 15 minutes and try again. Once the initial water has had a chance to absorb, the softened ground will take on water much more effectively.
- Seasol: Seasol is like a plant multivitamin rather than a fertiliser. Fertilising a really stressed plant can cause burning and push the plant over the edge - so fertilising stressed plants is often hurting rather than helping! Seasol on the other hand is a risk-free way of delivering the essential natural compounds and trace elements that your plants need for healthy growth, along with the all important water. Applying Seasol will relieve stressed plants, but applying once a week or so will also help make your plants more resilient and able to ride out stressful circumstances much more effectively.
- DroughtShield: Spray Yates Waterwise DroughtShield onto the leaves of your plant until you see run-off forming. As the product dries it forms a protective, flexible film across foliage. This helps to increase the survival rates of newly-transplanted plants and seedlings, while also assisting in survival through dry times and helping to reduce water usage by up to 50%. The polymer stretches up to 100% as your plant grows, and lasts for up to 90 days. It's also a great way to protect your plants from frost!
Swooping in and saving the day is one thing, but we can't be on the lookout all of the time. Here are some longer term solutions to help you protect your plants from heat stress:
- Mulching: Water the garden deeply and apply mulch onto your garden beds at about 5cm thick. This natural barrier helps to lock moisture into the soil, slowing evaporation and giving your plants plenty of water to draw on. It also suppresses pesky weeds!
- Water Saving Granules or Crystals: Water saving products like Wettasoil can be added to existing garden beds, and naturally filter down into the root zone of your plant. They work by absorbing water and then slowly releasing it back into the soil, providing a steady water source when the soil around it has lost much of its moisture.
- Irrigation: If you're a forgetful gardener, why not consider installing irrigation? It's often more cost effective than you think, and by attaching a timer, you won't need to lift a finger to have perfectly watered plants and a happy, healthy garden. We have everything you need in-store, or call in the professionals with Flower Power Garden Care on 1300 042 273.