How to protect your plants from heat and smoke
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.
- As little as 20 minutes of exposure to toxic smoke can reduce photosynthesis by up to 50%, according to UC Berkeley's Botanical Garden.
- Smoke may affect the taste of fruits and flower production and an accumulation of ash can affect soil chemistry and diminish plants' ability to absorb nutrients.
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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