Aug 16, 2023 - Climate

How to protect your plants from heat and smoke

About eight ducks sit in a row on a green embankment on the edge of a lake, looking out into a distance that is hazy and smoky over the lake.
Ducks sit next to Green Lake as smoke from wildfires fills the air in September 2020. Photo: Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While we can head inside, close the windows and use air purifiers to protect ourselves from wildfire smoke and scorching heat, our plants and trees don't have that choice.

Driving the news: Withering sun like what we're experiencing this week can burn plants, while smoke blocks sunlight and can clog the pores on leaves, journalist and Western director of Garden Communicators International Erica Browne Grivas tells Axios.

Why it matters: Studies show that human-caused climate change is making heat waves longer, hotter and more common, writes Axios' Andrew Freedman, and a warmer world means more wildfires and smoke.

Be smart: To prepare your garden for climbing global temperatures, choose native or drought-adapted plants, says Grivas. Once plants are established, water deeply but infrequently to promote resilient plants with deep roots.

During heat waves, water early in the morning or late in the evening.

  • Cover the soil surface with mulch, such as dry grass clippings, or living groundcovers to protect it from direct sunlight and keep moisture locked in.
  • Shade plants with parasols, permeable frost cloths or shade blankets.

When smoke is present, keep plants well watered and rinse the ash off at least weekly.

  • Wash edible crops with vinegar and water two or three times to remove any smoke or ash residue.
  • Consider wrapping very delicate plants, like seedlings, new transplants, or plants with very thin leaves with woven frost cloth to keep toxins away.
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