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How can I protect new plants and vegetables when it’s hot?

Give them a sun break with some shade! Even though it's hot and dry, some of us may need to plant now, especially vegetable gardeners getting ready for fall.  And some summer vegetables need a break from the August sun.

Shading plants also comes in handy when we move a plant in spring and the temperatures soar to the 90s.

Although some plants, like lantana, okra, bird of paradise, succulents, cacti and other truly heat-loving tough guys will not bat an eye if you plant them in mid-summer in Texas, most plants will struggle. 

To shade plants, all you need to do is build a simple, even crude shade structure for them, to keep out some of our burning sunlight.  A very easy way to do this is with PVC pipe and shade cloth, both of which are easy to find at home improvement stores and most nurseries.  PVC pipe is relatively easy to cut with a small hand saw, and you can build an A frame and just drape a large piece of shade cloth over the top. 

To build a larger shade frame, you can use thin wooden stakes, which can be hammered into the ground relatively easily, and use a staple gun to staple the shade cloth onto them.  Shade cloth comes in different weights, keeping various amounts of light out.  About 30% sun blockage should do the trick.  Make sure that there is plenty of air circulation under the shade structure around your plants. 

If you’re protecting a vegetable garden, you may choose to leave the shade on until daytime temperatures fall back down into the 80’s.  Although vegetables can handle more light and you can remove it earlier, once they’re established, the plants will be less stressed in a bit of shade.  Although too much shade will inhibit their ability to fruit, so don’t overdo it. 

If you’re simply protecting a landscape plant, especially if you had to move it recently, a few weeks under a bit of shade should do it.  Any rudimentary shade structure will do the trick, so don’t think you need to get too fancy.  But make sure that the wind isn’t going to pick it up and blow it away.

 For something that needs protection just for a few weeks, rig up stakes with newspaper, stick in an old umbrella, set a chair over it, or anything that shades them from the harshest angle of sun.

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