Battling the Elements in Your Garden

Reader Contribution by Mackenzie Kupfer
1 / 4
2 / 4
3 / 4
4 / 4

Sometimes, despite our best efforts and intentions, Mother Nature seems to hold a grudge against our gardens. We can begin to feel like Goldilocks, waiting for the “just-right” conditions in which to thrive. Here are some tips on how to thwart the weather and encourage a healthy garden in spite of the elements.

Storms bring standing water that can drown an unprepared garden.


TOO LITTLE: In arid climates, water is precious. In drought conditions, there might be caps on how much water you’re allowed to use in your yard. To reduce water waste, water at night when it’s cool and the sun won’t evaporate it away. Also place your more delicate plants in a shady spot where you’ll see them every day; you’ll notice when they begin to wilt. For your planters, try using coco liners to better retain moisture in the soil.

But if you want to make your yard more amenable to dry spells, try embracing your climate by using native plants, particularly in desert areas like Arizona. One good option is xeriscaping: the practice of gardening using as little water as possible with strategic irrigation. Hardy plants like cacti and creosote do well in dry areas, require little to no irrigation, and can be quite beautiful.

TOO MUCH: Sitting water with nowhere to drain is death to almost any ground-living plant because roots rot when over-saturated. If your yard is in danger of flooding, dig strategic ditches surrounding your garden to give the water somewhere to go. If you have an incline in your yard, try not to plant too much at its base as it will be harder to manage the overflow.

Some gardeners don’t mind going out in the rain. I, myself, like water about as much as the next cat, so I’ve bought some pole-standing tents to put over my walkway and beds seasonally. They protect me and my plants from heavy rains.

Native plants aren’t always restrictive. Flowering cacti can bring color to a desert garden.


TOO LITTLE: Particularly in Northern areas, the problem of too little sun may arise. This is fairly easily avoided as there are a multitude of plants, from lilacs to ferns, that really thrive without a ton of direct sunlight. Unfortunately, for some that need more light, your options are limited. Aside from standing with a sun-lamp and extension cord a couple hours a day, you can tactically place your plants in the sunniest parts of your yard, usually away from trees.

TOO MUCH: On the other hand, you might find your plants are getting too much sun. For one thing, those tent-like coverings I mentioned are good for protection from the sun as well as the rain. I prefer using natural cover like trees and taller bushes to shade more delicate specimens because it’s economical and natural-looking. For yourself, be sure you always wear sun-block and a hat to prevent over-exposure!


TOO LITTLE: Winter will be a low point in your garden if you live in a cold climate. But the harm of coldsnaps in fall can be mitigated in a couple of ways. Insulating roots with a thick layer of mulch is a popular approach. To protect what’s above-ground, make mini-greenhouses by covering plants with lightweight fabrics to retain the heat of the day. Also, try focusing your efforts on vegetables like chard and collards, or plants like hostas and azaleas, that tolerate cold well when you know a particularly frosty season is predicted.

TOO MUCH: Related to the sun issue, heat can kill off some plants very quickly. Even out of direct sunlight, the stifling heat of the summer in places like the marshy Southwest can oppress your plants. Your best bet is staying on top of your watering schedule. Your hose water will usually come from your water tanks protected under your home, so it should be cool. You might choose to garden as early in the morning as you can stand in order to avoid the heat. Your hydration is more important than that of your plants, so be mindful about drinking plenty of water.

Wind is not a force to be trifled with. Even small storms can blow your garden away!

Too Much Wind

For many homes, wind can produce minimal nuisance. For those that are on hill-tops, though, the wind can pose serious problems by uprooting shallow plants and flattening tall ones. In extreme cases, you might experience Aeolian erosion in which the wind literally carries away your soil. To prevent wind damage, be aware of which winds are prevailing in your area and garden on the opposite side of the house. A westerly gale can’t meddle with your garden if it’s tucked on the eastern side of your home. You can also create your own windbreaks out of landscaping rocks, bushes and retaining walls to shield you and your plants.

So you see, the weather can put a damper on your gardening plans, but you can fight back! That indomitable spirit will serve you well in life, especially in your garden.

Mackenzie Kupfer has been a lover of all things green since the age of six when she began gardening with her Nana. She is currently an online publisher for the tomato cage supplier, Avant Garden Decor. In her free time, Mackenzie enjoys attending garden shows, hiking, and collecting ceramic tea sets.

Need Help? Call 1-800-456-6018
Mother Earth Living
Mother Earth Living
The ultimate guide to living the good life!