The best ways to garden in the heat of summer

Alicante Tireiler

For best results harvest in the cool

THE sweltering Mediterranean mid summer days are not the time to be out working in the garden. The Spanish did not have the afternoon siesta to be lazy. rather it was a clever way to rest during the most difficult time to work outside. An afternoon rest enabled staying up late at night and getting up early in the morning to enjoy the best parts of the summer days.

In summer most outdoor gardening and farm work in Spain is done in the early morning from first light until midday. After that it is time to freshen up and prepare for lunch and a siesta. The siesta gives a much needed rest in the hot and humid afternoons.

When I first came to Spain I would work through the afternoon but soon found out that it is so exhausting. It is far better to work in the cooler mornings and if necessary the evening than attempt to work in the summer afternoon heat.

The best plan for sustainable gardening though is to have all the main work done before summer and wait for autumn to do anything else major during the cooler seasons. In this way the garden can be a refuge to visit and enjoy in summer with only basic maintenance and harvesting of produce to be done at the most appropriate time to enjoy the work.

I find any watering is best done in the evening as the water applied has time to soak into the soil and potting mixes of containers more deeply overnight. Morning applications can evaporate quickly before having the chance to penetrate.

Other priorities can mean that it is not always possible to water when it is the ideal time so applying a minimum amount of water is worthwhile to save your plants no matter what time of day. If you need to water during the midday period, you will need to be careful to apply water to the soil rather than the foliage and make sure that the water you are applying is about the natural air temperature.

Hoses can have extremely hot water when first turned on if they are stored in the sun and some underground stored water can be quite cold. These extremes are not good for your plants.  Make sure the water you apply is a suitable temperature and if not find a way to correct the water temperature such as using a watering can to regulate it.

To me, the morning is the best time to harvest any fruit and vegetables that may be ready in summer. The cooler overnight temperatures seem to freshen most produce and most are crisper and turgid. If you wait until the sun gets hot they are much more limp and softer and often loose some of their flavour. Most flowers are at their best in the morning. The Day lilies have done especially well this year so I collect them to decorate the house for the day and to add to the salad.

After that, the rest of the day is to enjoy the summer by finding places to keep cool and after lunch enjoy a siesta.

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