Garden and Lawn Maintenance: 10 Tips to Beat the Heat

We’re well into summer and I hope you and your families have been enjoying the sunshine in your backyards. If you live in high heat or desert climates like Phoenix, you know that temperatures can soar way past comfortable. To ensure that your backyards survive, and even thrive, in extreme heat you’re going to have to put a little extra effort into garden and lawn maintenance.

Don’t worry; I’ve gathered some expert tips to help you with that. Here’s what you should be thinking about every year ahead of extremely high temps.

Lawn Maintenance in Extreme Heat

Large lawn behind a house showing summer lawn maintenance

Increasing summer temperatures don’t just take a toll on us – our lawns feel drained and stressed out too! If you want to keep your lawns looking lush, green, and healthy in extreme heat you will have to adjust how you approach lawn maintenance according to the season. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Mowing Your Lawn: The Right Height

Man mowing the lawn with a lawn mower

Who doesn’t love a short, well-manicured lawn? But don’t make the mistake of cutting the grass too short. This inhibits the grass’ ability to produce energy for growth. Grass develops stronger roots when cut at the correct height, supporting healthy growth and making it more tolerant of the stress that comes with high temperatures. Keep in mind that each variety of grass is different and has its own requirements. For the right lawn maintenance approach, research which cutting height is best for your grass type.

A good guideline regarding the height of your lawn is the “One-Third” rule: cut one-third of the grass height at a time. This rule allows less plant tissue to be removed, keeping your lawn cooler and minimizing the effect of the extreme heat.

2. Keep Mower Blades Sharp

The sharper the mower blade, the easier it is for the grass plant to heal. Dull blades tear the plant tissue, leaving the grass more prone to disease and stress.

3. Avoid Mowing During a Drought

Due to the stressful environment during a drought, the ability of the lawn to recover during this time is limited and mowing can cause more harm than good. For efficient lawn maintenance, mow after irrigation or rainfall and only when the grass is dry to avoid clumping.

4. Don’t Overwater

Sprinkler in grass showing lawn maintenance and watering

You may need more water, but your lawn does not. Overwatering is a common misconception for lawn maintenance during extremely high temperatures. The danger is that the more you water your lawn, the more the lawn relies on you to do so. To promote healthy root growth, stick to a regular watering schedule to allow the grass to regulate itself. For the most efficient use of water, irrigate your lawn early in the day to avoid molds and fungi. This also allows your grass to soak up a good amount of water before the moisture evaporates in the afternoon heat.

The key to lawn maintenance is to water thoroughly but less often. To do this, ensure that the root area is properly wet and do not irrigate again until the grass is dry. If it rains on a scheduled watering day do not water your lawn again. Keep in mind that most types of lawn only require one inch of water per week, including rainfall; and that a healthy lawn should only require water every 2-3 days.

5. Steer Clear of Fertilizers

You may be tempted to use fertilizers in extreme heat – don’t. Fertilizer stimulates growth, causing more consumption of energy which results in even more stress for the grass plant in the high temperatures of mid-summer.

Instead, use grass clippings. As they decompose, they act as a slow-release fertilizer for the plant and can positively impact the health of your lawn.

6. Decrease Traffic

It’s lovely to see the family out on the lawn in summer – the kids and grandchildren splashing about under the sprinkler. This is what summer memories are made of. Keep in mind, though, that foot traffic can inhibit the recovery of an already stressed lawn. I suggest installing stepping stones to help people avoid the grass. Try to keep your outdoor summertime entertainment off the lawn as much as possible – the patio makes for a great entertainment area. This will give your lawn a better chance of recovery and will help ensure that your lawn maintenance efforts aren’t in vain.

Garden Maintenance in Extreme Heat

Close-up of bee on a purple flower representing garden maintenance

Bright colors, flowers in bloom, and buzzing insects – these are just some of the beautiful things that come with summer. There’s also scorching heat that puts a strain on your plants and flowers, causing you to miss out on these beautiful sights. Like lawn maintenance, garden maintenance is also important in extreme heat.

Many of the lawn maintenance tips above apply here too, such as smart watering, using compost, grass clippings, or leaves as mulch and avoiding fertilizer. Here are a few additional tips to help your garden flourish in the harsh summer months.

1. Choose Plants that Love the Heat

When choosing what to plant, pick varieties bred for hot climates. Here are a few heat-tolerant options you may want to consider:

  • Succulents: These plants do well in hot, dry conditions and complement a rock garden nicely.
  • Marigold: Its vivid orange and yellow flowers are not only pleasing to look at, but this plant also deters pests when planted under tomatoes. Bonus!
  • Liatris Blazing Star: This perennial not only loves the heat but does well in winter too, as it is extremely hardy. It loves being exposed to full sunlight and its long purple spikes attract butterflies – is there anything more summery than that?
  • Sunflowers: As the name suggests, they love the heat and are drought-tolerant, growing best when exposed to direct sunlight for 6-8 hours a day.

For other heat-tolerant plants, consider sweet potatoes (they love warm nights and hot days), corn, hot peppers, eggplant, and cucumber – they all require little maintenance and lots of sun.

2. Plant Before Summer Arrives

For garden maintenance, consider planting in early spring and fall before the heat arrives in order to give your plants a better chance of survival. If you’d like more natural shade, I suggest planting trees and shrubs in the fall to allow growing time before the next summer’s extreme high temperatures.

3. Use Shade Cloth

If you’re looking for a temporary structure to provide relief from the sun, shade cloth is a great idea. It provides some much-needed shade for garden plants and is available in a variety of sizes and shade factors (degree of blocked sunlight). Care should be taken to position the shade cloth in a way that will not reduce aeration for the plants: above the plants will suffice. Additionally, your shade cloth should be able to withstand the elements such as high winds.  

4. Weeding

Weeding is an important step that shouldn’t be left out when it comes to garden maintenance in extreme heat. Weeds steal the much-needed water from your plants. I know this isn’t a fun exercise – especially in the intense summer heat – so be sure to weed early in the morning or in the evening so that you don’t overheat.

Garden and Lawn Maintenance: It’s Worth the Effort

Preparing your backyard for extremely high temperatures can be a tedious affair. However, all garden and lawn maintenance you do during this time will be well worth the effort once you see the result – a flourishing garden ready to help you create fond summer memories.

Is your backyard ready for the mid-summer heat? Do you have any garden and lawn maintenance hacks? Share them in the comments below.