Protecting Vegetables from the Heat

Protecting Vegetables from the Heat

Shade House for early fall crop Credits: UF/IFAS

Shade House for early fall crop
Credits: UF/IFAS

In fall, many Florida homeowners enjoy growing their own vegetables but are faced with late summer heat issues. This happens during the first few days of August here in north Florida. Most cole crops are recommended to be planted for the fall as early as August 1, but they must be protected from the hot weather or they may need to be replaced if hot weather damages them. A diverse selection of both heat-resistant and tender plants should be planted in order to prevent total devastation of the garden by extremely hot weather.

The site selection for tender plants should be number one on your list when protecting from heat. Fall vegetable plants need a site with good air flow to protect them from the early season hot temperatures. Arranging susceptible  plants along a shade barrier can protect them from direct hot sun, especially from afternoon sun. Poorly drained soils result in weak shallow roots which are more susceptible to drying out during a heat wave.

Plants grown with the correctly applied rate of nutrients will tolerate hotter temperatures better and recover from wilt injury faster than plants grown with little to no nutrients. Watering vegetable garden plants early in the day can help protect them. A well-watered soil will stay cooler than a dry soil and keep plants hydrated. However, saturated soil conditions can damage the root systems of most plants over a few days, so make sure the ground is well-drained.

Healthy vegetable plants are more resistant to heat than vegetable plants weakened by disease, insect damage, or nematode damage. Routine inspection for pests and implementation of necessary control measures are essential. Feel free to contact your local county extension office for information on pest identification and recommended controls.
Shade cloth coverings can help protect vegetable plants more from extreme hot temperatures during the beginning of fall gardening. Shade Cloth that extend to the ground and are not in contact with the vegetable plants foliage can lessen heat injury to the plant. If the vegetable plant foliage is in contact with the cover it is often dried out or injured because of heat transfer from cover the foliage can burn the leaves. One example of excellent plant covers is shade cloth or even an old trampoline cover. To learn more on heat protection of vegetable plants call your local UF/IFAS Extension Service