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Hot Weather Gardening Part 2: Mindset and Acclimation
How important are mindset and acclimation for gardening during hot weather. What are the key aspects of a successful mindset? How long does it take for basic heat acclimation?
This is the 2nd in a series of articles with my precautions, tips, advice, and ideas for gardening in Southern California’s high heat from midsummer through fall. See below for links to other articles in the series.
Hot weather and high temperatures can be dangerous. Basic safety precautions are important including sun protection, hydration, working mornings or evenings when temperatures are cooler, avoiding exertion and working for short periods only, and having indoor cooling environments available.
Home gardening is one of the safest and most-rewarding activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. For other helpful articles, see our blog page Dig In.
The Brain is Still the Most-Important Gardening Tool
- Like almost everything about gardening, safe and successful work outdoors during hot weather depends on the gardener’s mindset and self-knowledge as much or more as it does on gardening knowledge or skill.
- Are you so uncomfortable during hot weather that it’s best to let your plants fend for themselves? Would you rather avoid the heat yourself even if it means plants becoming stressed or die? If so, it’s best to plan for this during winter and spring, plant early to allow full harvest periods, and naturally wind down your seasonal gardening cycle before hot weather arrives
- Is it worth it to you to make the effort to extend harvest during hot weather? Do you care enough about your plants and trees that you’d rather brave the heat than risk losing them? If so, begin acclimating your body to work at high temperatures with the first heatwaves of spring and summer.
- There’s no single right answer about how you approach (or rule out) gardening during hot weather; however, whatever your preferences and limitations, it’s best to recognize, acknowledge, and plan for them.
Heat Isn’t Quite As Hot When You’re Used To It
- Based on research, we know that humans are capable of adjusting to working in higher temperatures, but need to adjust to working in the higher temperatures slowly through a process called acclimation. During acclimation, people need less-strenuous work and more breaks to rest.
- If you want to garden during hot weather, give yourself time and intentionally seek repeated, progressively longer periods of exposure to hot temperatures to increase your comfort, resilience, and energy.
- If you allow yourself seasonal and regular exposure to warmer temperatures beginning with the first heatwaves in spring and summer, you’ll be better acclimated to working outdoors when the high heat arrives.
Is Hot-Weather Gardening Like Eating Brussels Sprouts?
- For some gardeners, being exposed to hot temperatures is clearly a safety risk. If you’re in that group, by all means avoid the heat. For the rest of us, it may be worth giving hot-weather gardening a second chance, like you probably once did with broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
- Some gardeners may be able to focus on the benefits and find hot-weather gardening to be tolerable.
- Think of Bikram Gardening as being like Bikram Yoga for your yard, and with the added benefits that it helps your plants without the price tag.
Self-Awareness and Self-Monitoring
- When working outdoors during heatwaves, self-awareness and self-monitoring become important. Heat stress and exhaustion occur most often when a gardener isn’t acclimated to heat, ignores warning signs, overexerts, or misses a basic precaution such for sun protection, hydration, or symptoms of heat stress..
- After decades of working long hours outdoors, the single most-important shift that I make during hot weather is to stay alert about my energy level, and how my body feels. It’s similar to the special alertness that we all employ when driving vehicles, or when operating power tools.
- For me personally, I have a slight reduction in energy, and what can feel like a slight weakening of my muscles that indicates it’s time to drink water. There’s a different feel to this than muscle tiredness from exertion or exhaustion. If I ignore this, I may begin to feel slightly dizzy, which is the second and more-serious warning. If I drink sufficient water and these symptoms don’t go away, it’s time for a break and a quick snack. In the rare instances that water, a ten-minute rest, and a snack don’t resolve the symptoms, it’s time for me to slow down or finish up for the day.
- This plan for self-monitoring may seem simple; however, when combined with methods and tips described in other articles in this series, it’s what allows me to remain relatively comfortable and enjoy myself for hours at a time while working during hot weather.
- While the details may vary, our bodies will provide similar information and warnings to each of us. If you know what these warnings are for you personally, you’re a step closer to working safely and comfortably outdoors during hot weather. If not, extra caution is important until you do.
Prepare Yourself For Heatwaves
In addition to acclimation and mindset, practical preparations are important for working outdoors during hot weather. See the next article in this series, “Hot Weather Gardening Part 3: Tips and Gear to Beat the Heat.” Other articles in this series include “Hot Weather Gardening Part 1: Bikram Gardening.”
GardenZeus has plenty of information to help you get started growing ornamentals, fruits and vegetables. To receive customized growing information for your area, click here.
Articles of interest for gardening in high heat include:
Hot Weather Gardening Part 1: Bikram Gardening
Hot Weather Gardening Part 3: Tips and Gear to Beat the Heat
Hot Weather Gardening Part 4: Help Your Plants Survive Heatwaves
Hot Weather Gardening Part 5: More Tips to Help Plants Beat the Heat
Hot Weather Gardening Part 6: How to Cool Your Body and Your Gear
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