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Gardening tips - Weathering extreme weather

Carole McCray
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It’s really simple, just some easy tricks to help you with your garden through extreme weather in both cold and warm climates. The following are tips to reassure you.

COPING WITH HEAT AND COLD

This tip may make you look slightly crazy when doing it, but I don’t worry about what the neighbors may think. It has worked out well to protect plants from being scorched by a heatwave. It makes sense; do as you would do yourself on an extremely hot day - seek some shade. One tip for shading plants is to throw old sheets over your vegetable or flower beds. For smaller areas, use umbrellas or even old window screens. These temporary barriers between your plants and the sun will reduce temperatures, ultraviolet rays and water loss through evaporation. I see ladies here in Cape May, the Victorian resort by the sea, walking with umbrellas to protect their skin. They are doing just like the Victorian ladies who donned their parasols and walked the promenade in the heat of the day years ago. This idea of protecting their skin from the sun could be applied to your plants as well.

PROTECTING PLANTS IN COLD WEATHER

Plants need to be protected not just in the heat but when cold snaps occur, usually either side of winter when plants have naturally slowed down. Using straw or leaves heaped around the plants and insulating both the plants and the surrounding ground are easy to do since most perennials had a cut back. Old newspapers or carpet also are good insulators for plants. Frost and freezing are reduced as well as any serious damage. Come spring, remove the mulch you used to protect plants to allow for new spring growth.

TOUGH PERFORMERS

Growing more reliable plants are the ones that will soldier on in extreme heat. For zones 4 through 11, Flower Carpet roses are low maintenance in heat and cold. Weigelia is a beautiful flowering shrub and is cold-hardy and heat-tolerant in zones 4-8. Tolerating high humidity and hot, dry locations, Lantana normally will behave as a winter-hardy perennial in zones 7-10; in colder climates, it will bloom as an annual. Gardeners in zones 4-9 will find gaillardia and coneflowers are heat-resistant, and if cut back after blooming, they should return the following summer.

TRY HARD LANDSCAPING

Any fence that slows wind is a friend to the gardener. A screen or fence can help desiccate winds. A shady pergola where the sun beats down the hardest can be both functional and attractive. You might try one of these hard-landscaping ideas to help your plants survive erratic climate changes: A rain-garden trap to use falling water; a permeable gravel path to capture runoff; a water feature to store water; a shed to overwinter sensitive plants.

Tough plants will help your garden weather the tougher times through extreme heat and cold.

Carole McCray resides in Cape May, New Jersey and is an award-winning garden writer who has been writing a monthly garden column, The Potting Shed, for regional newspapers for nearly 20 years. Her articles have been published in The Christian Science Monitor Newspaper, Coastal Living Magazine, Cape May Magazine, Growise Garden Guide and Ideals Magazine. She won the Garden Writer’s Association Award for newspaper writing for The Christian Science Monitor Newspaper.