10 Tips to Keep Your Plant Babies Alive in North Carolina’s Sweltering Weather

Gardening Tips for Summer

Here's a "don't." Try to avoid spraying the foliage in your summer garden. The water tends to evaporate and it can act like a microscope for the heat. Try watering the roots instead. (Shutterstock)

By Leah Sherrell

July 25, 2023

There’s more to watering than you think. Fertilizer isn’t always good for your plants. And more gardening tips for summer in NC.

Why do I need gardening tips for summer? Every year I am excited for the summer sun and warm weather temperatures. Without fail, I forget the stifling heat of July and August.  At some point I inevitably drop the phrase, “I just don’t remember it being this hot.” 

I usually chalk it up to a combination of eagerness to be done with the frost and a coping mechanism to get through near 100-degree-days. 

Except this year I’m right. 

The heatwaves have been insane; Bloomberg says there’s an 81% chance that this will be the hottest year on record and July, 2023 has had four of the world’s hottest recorded days

Related: It’s Now or Never for Climate Change. And the Stakes Are High for NC. 

So whether you’re an experienced gardener or just getting started (like me), you may notice your flowers, fruits, and veggies have taken a hit due to all this heat. 

Here are 10 “do’s and don’ts” to help your heat-stricken plant babies thrive (or just survive).  


Happy Gardening everyone 😊 🌻 #gardening #epicgardening #organicgardening #gardeningtips #raisedbedgardening #gardeninghacks #gardeningforbeginners #vegetablegardening

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Gardening Tips for Summer: Do’s

Water Deeply 

Deeply watering your plants protects your plants by encouraging them to send their roots deep into the soil rather than keeping them close to the surface. This is essential when there are heat waves because the surface of the soil dries out very quickly, shriveling plant roots and killing your harvest. 

Deep watering is loosely defined as soaking the soil to an 8-inch depth.  Do that with irrigation lines or water close to the base of plants with a light, steady stream of water. 

**More on why not to water plants by spraying overtop the leaves in the “don’t” column. 

Water in the Morning or in the Evening 

I have definitely looked at my garden in the middle of the day and been tempted to water my drooping plants right then in there. Restraint, however, is a common theme in gardening. Establishing a garden watering routine in the morning or evening allows much more water to soak into the soil rather than be evaporated by the midday sun. 

Add Mulch 

Laying mulch down also helps conserve water and soil moisture by slowing down evaporation. Additionally, mulch deters pests and weeds which harm your garden. 

The Farmer’s Almanac defines mulch aws any organic matter that covers the top layer of your soil. This can be material like compost, wood chips, and shredded cardboard. 

Weed regularly 

Weed prevention is a great practice, but not 100% effective, so make sure to monitor your garden for greenery you didn’t plant there. It can be tempting to put off weeding in hot, humid weather but they take away nutrients and water from your plants, and make your garden more susceptible to pests. 

Add Shade 

Even if your plants usually prefer full sun, a heat wave can still impact them. There are a few ways you can add shade to your garden. Shade cloth is a popular option because it blocks a percentage of the sun’s rays but still allows the needed light to reach your plants. You can diy some shade with an umbrella or a beach tent. 

 **If you’re already planning for next year’s garden you can plant large, heat-loving plants like sunflowers to cast shade over your more delicate garden items. 

Know the Signs of Heat-Stressed Plants 

Do a quick search on what the plants in your garden look like when they’re stressed by the heat/sun. Some signs of heat stress can be confused with signs of pests or disease so knowing which is which will help you find the right solution to your problem. 

Wilting, for example, is a common response to increased temperatures. It isn’t always cause for concern as most plants will perk back up in the evening or overnight. However, if your plants aren’t recovering take measures to water or cool them off. 

Gardening Tips for Summer: Don’ts

Don’t Overwater

This one is hard because it’s just. so. tempting.

I mentioned earlier the importance of a routine watering in the morning and evening and that routine is crucial. Not only does it increase water absorption, but it also gives you peace of mind in the middle of a heatwave when you see your plants drooping from the kitchen window. 

Overwatering can suffocate your plants, and while they often recover, it can also kill them.  

If you’re not sure if your garden needs extra watering, check the soil. If the soil is still damp an inch or two deep, hold off on watering.  


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Don’t Spray Water on the Leaves  

This one surprised me but makes a lot of sense. When you water your garden by spraying the water overhead, the water droplets on your leaves will evaporate rather than soak into the soil, and act like a magnifying glass, heating up and damaging your plants. 

Don’t Prune or Remove Damaged Foliage 

Pruning your garden encourages new growth, which is usually a good thing, but also requires a lot of energy from your plants. During a heatwave, when plans are trying to conserve water and energy, it can cause stress. It can also take away a protective layer from new growth that is especially vulnerable to sunburn during periods of increased sun. 

Don’t Add Fertilizer 

It would make sense to think that stressed out, sad-looking, wilted plants could use a fertilizer pick-me-up to beat the heat. You might want to hold off though, because it will lead to further plant damage. According to Gardening Know How, fertilizers cause salt to form at the roots of your plants which can burn their roots and leaves by preventing hydration. 

We hope you liked this list and wish you happy gardening! 

If you want to read more on the impact of climate change and what people are doing about it  in North Carolina, check out this article from C&P’s Michael McElroy.


  • Leah Sherrell

    Leah Sherrell is a multimedia reporter for Cardinal & Pine. A graduate of UNC-Wilmington, she's a resident of Kernersville with a background in video production and communication. Leah uses many forms of media to explore the multifaceted lifestyles and cultures present in North Carolina.

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