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Hot Weather Gardening Part 3: Tips and Gear to Beat the Heat
What can you do to optimize safety while working outdoors during hot weather? What gear is useful for sun protection, hydration, and comfort? This article focuses on tips and gear to enable you to beat the heat when gardening during hot weather.
This is the 3rd 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.
Prepare Yourself First
- Gardening or even going outdoors can seem overwhelming or impossible during heatwaves, but with preparation, working outdoors can be tolerable or even comfortable during hot weather.
- Safety first: The basics are sun protection, hydration, maintaining minimal or moderate exertion to the level that is comfortable, working outdoors mornings or evenings, and having a cooler environment available for breaks or in case you begin to experience heat exhaustion or illness.
- Your body has to work harder to cool itself during hot weather, so you’ll naturally burn more calories. Blood sugar may be more prone to dropping. Snacking at intervals is important during hot weather.
- Be healthy and well rested before working in hot weather. Monitor yourself, especially when outdoors at high temperatures for more than short periods. I recommend allowing your body to adjust seasonally so you’re acclimated before heatwaves. See Hot Weather Gardening Part 2: Mindset and Acclamation.
- Many gardeners are satisfied with a good sunscreen but even non-oily sunscreens are uncomfortable for me. Water-resistant sunscreens might not last as well as you expect, and missing one exposed area of skin when applying the sunscreen can mean severe sunburn.
- The alternative that I much prefer is head-to-toe clothing. Various peoples of the Middle East and Africa have used full-body clothing to provide heat protection for thousands of years. While I haven’t seen conclusive research on the topic, it’s clear that clothing is insulating from external temperatures whether hot or cold, and particularly when outdoor temperatures are above body temperature (about 98.6ºF), full-body clothing may be more cooling than short pants and sleeves.
- I’m personally much more comfortable during hot weather in loose full-body clothing, especially cotton or wicking fabrics, than with sun anywhere on my skin. Loose clothing is preferable because of improved evaporative cooling from the combination of airflow and natural sweating.
- While many gardeners prefer a wide-brim hat (for women, for men or unisex), I find that these tend to limit my visibility and feel cumbersome. Instead I use a sun cap or sun hat with full neck and ear protection. Both of these hats include removable face covering for complete sun protection. In many areas these may be sufficient for mandated face covering during the COVD-19 pandemic.
- A good-quality sun-protection shirt is probably the most important article of clothing for comfort during hot weather. You may prefer a pullover (for women, for men) or button-down (for women, for men)
- For durability, functionality, and sun protection it’s hard to beat lightweight nylon pants (for women, for men) and breathable outdoor shoes (for women and for men).
- For gardeners, the backs of our hands are one of the areas that are exposed to the most sun and are prone to long-term skin damage. As I know from many gardening friends who have developed skin damage or cancers, it takes only one part of your body that is repeatedly overexposed to cause a problem. Comfortable, breathable, durable gloves are essential year-round.
- Pre-Hydration is drinking extra water in advance when you know you’ll be active or exposed to hot weather. A common recommendation is drinking about 2-3 full glasses of water about 2 hours before exertion.
- While exerting or exposed to hot temperatures, it’s best to drink smaller amounts of water more frequently to help your body maintain balanced hydration. Depending on level of exertion, heat, and how much you sweat, you may need to drink about 2 to 4 cups of water per hour when working outdoors during hot weather.
- While I normally use stainless-steel water bottles, I also use larger BPA-free plastic water bottles during hot weather to be sure that I’ll have enough water nearby. A wide-mouth bottle is helpful for being able to add ice.
- One of the simplest and best tricks I’ve used since I worked summers in orchards as a pre-teen is to freeze water inside a bottle, then add water from a separate source throughout the day. With a sufficiently large bottle, this creates a block of ice that lasts for several hours, and provides chilled water without having to add ice cubes that melt quickly.
- Since water expands to become ice, if you simply add water to a bottle and put it into the freezer, you will break or damage the bottle. Even metal bottles can be damaged this way. The solution is to use a clear or opaque bottle so you can see the water level, fill it about halfway, and lean it against something inside the freezer on an angle so that the water has room to expand without breaking the bottle. If you want a block of ice in more than half of the bottle, you must add progressively smaller amounts of water and continue leaning the bottle for repeated periods of freezing so there’s room for water to expand.
- Some water bottles are specifically labeled and rated for cold temperatures and these are ideal for freezing. This 32oz water bottle is rated for hot and cold liquids. It will still break if you add water and stand it upright in the freezer.
- The body loses essential minerals called electrolytes through body fluids such as sweat. This can cause exhaustion or become dangerous. One easy option for replenishing electrolytes is an electrolyte powder.
Prepare Your Plants for Heatwaves
- What can be done to prepare plants and trees for hot weather? What can you do to help stressed plants during heatwaves? See the next article in this series, “Hot Weather Gardening Part 4: Help Your Plants Survive Heatwaves”.
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 during heat include:
Hot Weather Gardening Part 1: Bikram Gardening
Hot Weather Gardening Part 2: Mindset and Acclimation
Hot Weather Gardening Part 4: Help Your Plants Survive Heatwaves
Hot Weather Gardening Part 5: More Tips to Help Your Plants Beat the Heat
Hot Weather Gardening Part 6: How to Cool Your Body and Your Gear
GardenZeus Tips for Providing Shade During Hot Weather
GardenZeus recommends Botanical Interests as an excellent source of quality seed. Order now for planting in the fall after the weather cools.