Besides water, sunshine is essential for plants, including those in the vegetable patch. The sun affects the air and soil temperature on which their growth depends. It also regulates chlorophyll photosynthesis, the process by which plants produce the food they need from water and carbon dioxide alone. The by-product of photosynthesis is oxygen, which enables us human beings and most of the planet’s organisms to live.
Excess heat and light, however, can turn from a vital resource into a problem. Now let's see why and how to protect your vegetable patch plants from the sun.
Irrigate the vegetable patch and avoid water dispersion
Water is essential to plants not only for photosynthesis, but also for a whole series of other chemical, physical and biological processes. That's why, if you are wondering how to protect plants from the sun, the first solution is irrigation. Providing water is a must, especially in the summer months when rain is scarce and, due to the heat, water evaporates quickly both from the ground and from the vegetation itself (through leaf transpiration).
The amount of water that the summer plants in your vegetable patch need depends on several factors:
Type of plants and their vegetative phase.
Rainfall and temperatures for the period.
Soil characteristics (well-draining or capable of retaining water).
When is it better to water plants in the summer vegetable patch? Never in the hottest hours of the day, but in the evening or early morning, when the plants have time to absorb as much water as possible, without it being wasted by instant evaporation or, conversely, facilitating the development of diseases by stagnating for a long time.
Plants absorb water mainly from the roots, so irrigate at ground level and don’t get the foliage wet, which is what happens with sprinkler irrigation. In addition, you also prevent the onset of disease. However, if necessary, you can apply pesticide treatments (in liquid, powder or granule form) with a backpack sprayer like the Efco AT 8000.
Don't underestimate the water temperature: if too cold it can cause thermal shock to summer plants. This is a potential risk if you use water from the mains supply and distribute it straight from a watering can or hose. There is no danger, however, if you irrigate with a drip system or using rainwater collected in a tank. Watering your summer vegetable patch at the coolest times of day also helps to minimise possible temperature fluctuations.
To draw water from a source—such as a canal or rainwater butt—and transport it to your summer vegetable patch, you can use a self-priming water pump like the MP 3000.
Water is precious as it protects the vegetable patch from heat, so use it wisely and sparingly, following the tips below:
Prepare the soil well before sowing/transplanting your summer vegetable patch: a good soil amendment that includes organic matter, such as manure, will help the earth to retain moisture. In this regard, you can take a look at our guide to preparing the vegetable patch.
Use mulches (made of natural materials or plastic sheeting) to prevent water evaporating from the soil, which will keep it moist and cooler.
As an alternative to mulching, try hoeing: by turning over the topsoil in your vegetable patch you help to stop water evaporating and break up the crust of earth that forms due to drought, heat and heavy rain.
Eliminate weeds (through weeding and mulching), which steal water from your vegetables.
Mulching the vegetable patch protects not just summer plants from the heat, but also winter vegetables from the cold: here you will find our tips for keeping the vegetable patch healthy in winter.
Shade netting for protecting the vegetable patch
For every plant there is both an optimum temperature for germination and growth, and a survival temperature range. At the extreme ends of the thermometer, there are also critical temperatures beyond which the plant will die. Therefore, the closer your vegetable patch gets to the optimal temperature, the faster the plants in it will germinate and develop. Vegetable species with a higher optimum temperature, i.e. better heat resistance, include classic seasonal vegetables such as cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and pumpkins, as well as typical summer fruits including watermelons and melons.
To overcome excessive heat, plants activate defence mechanisms, but these emergency systems go into crisis if the thermal stress is prolonged. Heat damage affects both leaves and vegetables. Leaves wither, curl, turn yellow and dry out, while vegetables themselves are prone to sunburn, rather like us humans.
So, how can you protect summer plants from the sun? To protect vegetables from the negative effects of the heat and sun, cover them with shading nets, which shield plants and vegetables from direct sunlight, lower the temperature of the space below and allow the air to circulate. Also, in the event of heavy hail or rainfall—which are increasingly prevalent in summer—shade netting prevents plants from being damaged or flattened, and during the production phase can even save your crop.
For setting up shading nets and performing any other work on the vegetable patch, a transporter is a handy, multi-purpose aid that can effortlessly carry any type of load, even the heaviest and most bulky.
Hot temperatures and lack of water also make summer a critical period for your lawn: here’s how and when to water the lawn in summer.
Would you like to turn part of your garden into a vegetable patch? If so, check out this rundown on how to manage a vegetable patch (effects of the moon and the seasons, organising crops, fertilisation and irrigation) and our guide on how to create your own aromatic herb corner.