How to Garden in a Heat Wave

How to Garden in a Heat Wave

Is it hot enough for you? This happens every year in July, but for some reason, we all think it’s something new. Heat waves happen in the summer in CT and they are good for one thing: they make the tomatoes grow. And eggplants and peppers too. You can practically watch it happen before your eyes. Here are some helpful hints for a hot July week:

One plant that LOVES the heat is basil. We have fresh plants of many varieties. You can never have enough basil at this time of year! 

1. Are you watering correctly? Here’s the deal. Both Diane and I have NOT watered the veggies in our raised beds and our perennials and shrubs in the ground that are thickly mulched with shredded straw or shredded bark since the big rains last week. Why? When I pull aside the mulch, the soil is still wet! Good organic soil, amended with compost, and mulched thickly, holds the water for quite a while. I see so many photos on Facebook of gardens that have tons of bare soil between the plants. That not only heats up the soil and dries out the plants, it also invites weeds. When you do water, WATER DEEPLY. Period. That is the secret. You want the roots to dive deep into the earth to get that water. If they are on the soil surface and it’s in the 90’s, they heat up and dry out. We hear so many people say they water their garden a little bit every day, or every other day. That is NOT the way to go.

2. Container gardens and Smart Pots are different  Plants in containers DO need more frequent watering, perhaps every other day, especially if the plants are in smaller pots or the roots now fill the pot. 

We mulch all our Smart Pots with Mainly Mulch.

3. You can mulch your container plants! At this time of year we spread shredded bark mulch on our shrubs and larger perennials and shredded straw in all our Smart Pots. 

4. You should be feeding. The more often you water, the quicker the nitrogen is leached out of the soil. If you water a hanging plant daily, it surely needs feeding by now. Click Here to link to last week’s Facebook Live video where I explain about feeding your plants. Or Click Here to link to our handout Feeding the Garden on our website. I am watering with Neptune’s Harvest a lot lately and using Coast of Maine Fish Bone meal which offers an excellent natural source of phosphorus, calcium, nitrogen, essential minerals, and trace elements. Jennifer and her garden crew use this for all of their annual and container plantings. It really works wonders.

5. Seaweed is a summer savior. At Natureworks, one of our secrets to help our plants survive a heat wave is to foliar feed them with liquid seaweed. We also add it to the soil. I use Stress-X powder. One small packet makes a full gallon of liquid seaweed (kelp) concentrate. From that concentrate you can make many, many gallons of diluted liquid seaweed. There is kelp in Organic Plant Magic too. 

A small section of our shade garden at Natureworks. We expanded it a year ago. Come visit the new plants and chill…

6. Shade gardens are the bomb in a heat wave! I bet you appreciate your big shade trees now! Working in your shade garden on a hot summer day really makes you see how trees cool the world. Our shade gardens are quite pretty right now and when you come for a visit, wander down by the road and

New! Invincibelle Ruby Hydrangea is a breakthrough color for our super-hardy and native Hydrangea arborescens. Yes, it will bloom in the shade. 

check them out. We are losing our big ash tree to emerald ash borer but have a native oak already planted and growing to take its place. We have a great selection of interesting shade plants in our lathe house and lots of lists and handouts on the website that explain the secrets of shade gardening. AND, we will be having a shade walk very soon. The summer Calendar of Events is out. Hopefully you got the email on Sunday and have downloaded it and marked your calendars for all of the fun things we are offering this summer. 

There’s something about white flowers that feels good when it’s hot. This is a new WHITE bee balm that we are all going crazy over. We have bee balm in so many colors and they adore this July weather. 

Did you know that we have a sidewalk at Natureworks? We do! It’s in the front of the shop. Most folks enter by the back door, which is our main entrance. But in the front is a nice bluestone walkway. This week we are having a brand new and improved  SIDEWALK SALE out front. This will lure you into our gardens AND you will find many shrubs are highly discounted. Check out the cool plants like Lonicera fragrantissima (winter honeysuckle that blooms with sweetly scented flowers in March and April), various witch hazel trees, some nice pink Scotch brooms, and a lot more. Relax on the front porch (did you know we have a front porch facing the road?) and enjoy the blooming gardens from that view.  The SIDEWALK SALE starts now and will run thru Wednesday, July 11th. Come in and get some great deals on some plants.

Along with our Sidewalk Sale, our bi-weekly specials are also changing. For

20% off our beautiful delphiniums for the next two weeks or until they are gone.

the next two weeks all of our delphiniums will be 20% off. Read my article below to learn more about how to grow delphiniums.  

This is your very last chance to pinch your mums, asters, Chelone, perennial sunflowers, and Montauk daisies. You want to do this by the 4th of July. I thought I was all set in my home gardens but yesterday I realized I missed my Montauk daisies and lots of asters in the back gardens. I also pinch goldenrod, cutting it to various heights so it blooms in layers in the fall.

Freshen up your containers with some new annuals. This is Torenia, a very under-used annual for sun or partial shade. The common name is wishbone flower. It comes in so many great colors and we’ve got plenty. Grows great in a garden bed too. 

Last Saturday I gave a free demonstration on container gardening and was truly surprised by how many people showed up! I guess a LOT of us are either still planting our containers or replanting where spring bloomers have finally finished. My goal was to introduce you to all kinds of wonderful, unusual plants

Pentas adores the hot summer heat. I use annuals to bring extra color to my perennial gardens wherever I have a gap. 

that adore the hot summer heat. We have totally restocked our annuals and perennials and both can be used in containers. I explained that if you use perennials in a container, they either have to have excellent foliage (think Heucheras, Hakonechloa grass, variegated Sedums) or they have to bloom for a long time. Once a blooming perennial is done in a container, you simply dig a hole in your garden bed, fill it with water (that’s called puddling in and we do it for all new plantings in the summer), then plant the perennial, and put a newperennial in the pot. This is how you build up your permanent collection and still have amazing container gardens. 

Don’t forget, starting July 5th we are beginning our SUMMER HOURS: We will be open Tuesday-Friday 9-6 and Saturday 9-5. We will be closed on Sundays and Mondays in the summer. We will go back to being open 7 days a week in the fall and continue straight through the Holiday season. We WILL be closed on the 4th of July so all of the Natureworkers can enjoy some family time. 

St. Johnswort flowers are just so much fun to look at. Bees adore them. This is our native species shown on our benches with a purple coneflower (Echinacea) in bloom. 


 Summer means blueberries and raspberries, bee balm, Echinaceas of all colors, monarch butterflies, St. Johnswort, elderberries, herbs, and tons of fresh produce from your garden. Summer is the time to sit and truly enjoy the fruits of your spring labors.

We have awesome fig trees right now and a great handout about how to grow them in CT. There is NOTHING better than fresh figs from your own plants.

May this week be filled with lots of butterflies and hummingbirds and fun times in the yard. Make time to stop in and stroll our gardens and don’t forget- this Saturday at 10 am Diane is offering a FREE workshop All About the Monarch Butterfly. This is a basic introduction that will explain how to attract them to your yard and keep them happy. We had our first monarch butterfly born early Saturday morning (it was a boy!) and we have lots of chrysalises hanging, eggs hatching, and caterpillars feeding already. They’re here and we hope you will come and learn from us so we can all keep them coming to our CT gardens for generations to come. 

I hope to see you very soon!
Delphiniums on sale for the next two weeks. I was in England in 2016 and was in delphinium heaven!




Sales this week:
  • All Delphiniums on sale 20% off July 5th-July 18th or until they are gone!
  • Sidewalk sale – deep sales on many shrubs & perennials 30-50% off.

  Psssst!!! Diane here (store manager)… Don’t tell the boss but I am ADDING some blocks of plants on sale through the 11th along with the Sidewalk Sale…. 20% off all in stock Phlox (and it is SO PRETTY!), Baptisia, Foxgloves, and Honeysuckle vines. AND 30% off Roses! Just for a few days so we can give the plants some breathing room and have room for MORE PLANTS. 😁