This recent week brought us cooler temperatures in the 90s as opposed to reaching 100. As summer just started a couple of weeks ago on June 21 and officially ends on September 23, I thought it would be of interest to look at how our landscapes can thrive in our difficult summers.
Our part of the world has some wonderful landscapes, which often come with the challenge of thriving in intense heat. Throughout the summer, our area faces scorching temperatures that demand innovative strategies for heat management. Thankfully, by using well-adapted plants and our own design choices, our landscapes can not only survive but also flourish amidst the blistering sun.
First, let’s plant only well-adapted plants or native plants. I know this may not be exciting for many, but these plants have adapted mechanisms to conserve water. Utilizing drought-resistant plants in landscaping helps to minimize water consumption, reducing the strain on water resources.
Xeriscaping, a landscaping approach developed in response to water scarcity, plays a crucial role in heat management. By utilizing water-efficient plants, reducing turf areas, and incorporating mulch to minimize evaporation, xeriscaping significantly reduces water usage while maintaining aesthetic appeal. This technique is widely adopted in southern landscapes to combat heat and save on the water bill.
Find a way to incorporate additional shade. We are certainly blessed with worlds of trees. Trees and their abundant shade often are the downfall of lawns which find it hard to grow, but trees and their canopies create shade for cooler microclimates. If you don’t need more trees, consider adding arbors, pergolas, and umbrellas in your outside spaces to shield against the sun, enabling you and your family to enjoy the outdoors while staying protected.
Perhaps the most difficult for me to wrap my head around is the design of outdoor structures. Indeed, I have a fire pit in our backyard, but I only chose to use that for a few months out of the year. What I long for is an airy structure with an outdoor ceiling fan. One thing I don’t think we get enough of is wind. And well-placed fans are much needed for outdoor relaxation.
Often overlooked are water features, such as fountains, ponds, and small waterfalls. These are not only visually appealing but also help cool the surrounding environment. The process of evaporation from these water sources aids in lowering ambient temperatures. In addition to their aesthetic value, these features act as natural “evaporative coolers,” providing relief from the heat while creating a soothing atmosphere.
Lastly, your irrigation system plays a vital role in managing heat stress in southern landscapes. Modern irrigation techniques, including drip irrigation and smart controllers, deliver water directly to the roots, minimizing evaporation and water waste. Moreover, sensors and weather-based irrigation controllers adjust watering schedules based on real-time weather conditions. This prevents overwatering and optimizes plant health.
We are no strangers to heat and our landscapes have found innovative ways to cope with and adapt to the challenges posed by extreme heat. Native plants, xeriscaping, shade structures, water features, efficient irrigation systems, and hardscaping techniques can collectively contribute to the management of heat stress. By implementing some combination of these strategies, we can continue to enjoy the beauty of our backyards, even amidst soaring temperatures. While others worry about climate change, we can find ways to enjoy the outdoors and survive our summer heat.
The Angelina County Extension office will be holding their Noon Gardening Program on July 18 on “Water Conservation in the Landscape”. The program will be from 12- 1 pm. Our guest speaker is Chanelle Svehla, County Extension Agent in Sabine County. She will be discussing irrigation strategies for the landscape. This event is hosted by local Volunteer Master Gardeners.