Gardening in the heat of summer – tips for avoiding heat prostration or worse.

The weather here is getting hotter.
Some of you may be new to the area and not used to our weather in the South East (I’m in Georgia) so here are some tips for keeping safe and healthy in the heat.

1. When outside in the garden wear a wide brimmed hat – not just a baseball cap but a real all the way around rim hat. This keeps your face in the shade but you still get sunlight for D3 production. It also protects the back of your neck and shoulders. I also sometimes wear a bandana around the forehead and around to the back of the neck to keep perspiration contained and out of my eyes. A cowboy hat doesn’t have a wide enough brim. Look for a real straw garden hat. My favorite one is many years old, with some strategic patching with canvas strips and a chin strap.

2. Keep water nearby and stay hydrated. Do not drink tap water. Make sure it is either well water, spring water or well filtered water. Best if it’s in a metal water bottle as sunlight in plastic water bottles breaks down some of the plastic nasty chemicals and they go into the water. If you need a good water filter, contact me for the best water filter I have found which even removes radiation.

3. Unless you are on heart or blood pressure medication, make sure you are getting enough salt. You sweat, you blow the salt out without even noticing it. I like to suck on Himalayan pink salt little crystals. Also find Potassium Gluconate in the stores (drug, grocery) and take it a few times during a heavy hot day when sweating. Another very excellent electrolyte substance is “Bio-Salt” aka “Cell Salts” which melt under the tongue. I go online and get mine from “Standard Vitamins” ( These are highly absorb-able minerals in a homeopathic matrix which go right in to the body.

4. Wet a small towel and throw it around your neck, re-wetting it when it gets hot or dries out. The back of the neck is the best place to cool off your body (data I got from someone who worked in Saudi Arabia where it really gets hot), much better than the wrists. I make a little cooling neck bandana with water absorbing gel crystals inside the roll of fabric that I soak in water, which releases moisture for a longer time than just a wet towel. Contact me if you would like one. I sell them for $15 +s&h, available in many colors. They last for years. Stipulate color and if you would like a pattern or plain fabric – all 100% cotton.

5. Drink grapefruit juice as the best beverage for avoiding heat exhaustion.

6. If you start to feel faint, dizzy, nauseated even a little, or weak, that’s the start of heat exhaustion and if you let it go too long can lead to heat prostration or even worse, heat stroke. Very bad news. Come in, cool off, put your feet up, drink something and rest without delay! Get electrolytes. As a note, if you really start to feel sick – don’t assume it’s an onset of the flu or something. This is the big red flag of danger for heat stroke. Call 911. You don’t want to be out in the garden, having passed out, with nobody knowing you’re out there. Best to prevent it and heed your body’s warning signals.

7. Rest and cool off when you start feeling too hot. Get in the shade, or come inside. Another neat trick is to have a spray bottle with water and lemon juice or lemon or other cooling essential oils (couple of drops) then spray your face, arms and legs. Or put some vodka in it which cools off even faster. I buy it by the quart for tinctures and get the cheapest they have at the bottle store.

8. Here’s one of my favorite tricks. I wear a longish cotton dress in real heat and just run the hose on me, wetting the entire dress. I keep it wet. It’s like running thru a sprinkler when you’re a kid – keeps you 10 degrees cooler. I find the cotton dresses in a thrift store and throw them out after they start looking really tacky. Just forget the fashion police, this is about comfort! Only use 100% cotton fabric which doesn’t out-gas or hold heat in. (Linen works also, as long as it’s a light grade of fabric.)

9. Make your own bug spray if lots of mosquitoes are out or for tick infested areas. There are many recipes online so do your own research to find one that suits you.  I keep mine in a 3″ long fairly fat spray bottle outside in the shade to re-apply when I’m staying wet.

Stay cool, enjoy the summer, and happy gardening!

Diann Dirks, Auburn, Ga.

This entry was posted in bug repelling in garden', food forest management, Gardening, heat protection, organic gardening, Permaculture, pest management, Self-Sustainability and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Gardening in the heat of summer – tips for avoiding heat prostration or worse.

  1. Linda says:

    Thank you Diann. this is a very timely and informative post and may well save someone’s life. Our weather here is hot with daily thunder storms.

    Summer IS here.



  2. didirks says:

    Thank you Linda, I was hoping I could get the word out. The first time I was in the tropics for any length of time a friend asked me how much salt and potassium I was taking and I said a lot. She said how much? and I said 4 salt tablets and one potassium. She said take that every 15 minutes until your headache and nausea go away – I took about 20 salt pills and 5 potassium before I felt normal. I had no idea!

  3. Thanks for sharing how to protect us, how about protecting plants? Mine were scorched and withered up this past week from all the heat. Veggies all gone. Full sun all day in containers. Watered twice a day, but didn’t help. Any advice you can share in blog entry would be helpful for next year. 🙂

    • didirks says:

      There are a few things I can think of although sometimes you just loose plants. First consider adding moisture crystals into the soil – soak first, mix in with soil when planting, or work into the soil around the existing plants being careful not to damage the plant’s roots. Second, for those plants which are actually hot weather plants such as tomatoes, squash, corn, peppers, eggplant and the like, you can drape some shade cloth over the plants to cut down on some of the intensity of the sun. It’s like putting them in partial shade. Or you can get white plastic which deflects some of the sun but allows some in, basically similar to the shade cloth. You can add a drip system and pile about two inches of organic mulch like grass clippings (don’t use chemical sprayed grass though), or straw (don’t use hay which is loaded with weed seeds). Mulch is the key though. We collect all our organic waste from trimmings and dead plants, run them through our chipper, and use that. One thing Permaculture tech says is never leave soil uncovered. Either mulch it or plant it so it is shaded. I do both. Also, as soon as one plant is removed, I immediately add some compost and replant in that spot, being careful to use a companion variety of plant. Google ‘companion plants’ and see what goes with what’s left in the bed after removing or harvesting something. I hope that helps. Let us know how that works out for you. I wouldn’t completely give up on the existing plants if they are alive though. Give them some compost tea, mulch heavily, and if possible lay some shading material over the areas. I get rolls of 3.4 mil plastic from Home Depot and that also works well in the winter to extend the season, being able to use it over and over. Good Luck with your garden.

    • didirks says:

      Forgive me for not replying sooner. I understand about heat and the needs of container beds. I have over 30 such beds in containers and it can be a struggle. When it gets particularly hot, I have found that because my containers are tree sized planter containers gotten from nurseries, they are black plastic and hold in the heat. So, as a cooling measure I have used straw bales around the outside of the containers, or used white cloth to surround them. In Cuba when Russia left them to starve after the Cuban Crisis, and the people suddenly had to feed themselves, they build a lot of cloth green houses which instead of letting light and heat in, limited that to the growing spaces. They just built frames and covered them with white cloth. In a smaller application, putting some kind of support up over the containers to hold up cloth would work. Also using shade cloth purchasable from grower supply houses online can provide different levels of sun filtration. This should help with the watering problem too. But I use a heavy layer of mulch around my plants in containers just as I do in my growing beds. This helps to hold in moisture. But I still have to keep an eye on the moisture levels. It also helps to put in water holding gel crystals which can be added to the soil before planting. I get my gel crystals online. This might help you decide if this is a good application for you. Also, some moisture control potting soils are on the market. I believe they probably either contain a lot of organic matter which olds moisture or some of these crystals. I haven’t really researched this myself. My containers are heavy with organic matter and compost. I hope this helps. BTW, you can grow year round even in very cold weather by putting 3.5 mil plastic sheeting over your containers (I hold the plastic up with tomato cages resting on their sides on the containers) and weighing them down with weights such as cinder blocks or rocks. Once you get them planted, watered, sufficiently charged with compost tea or other nutrients, they will provide food, particularly greens and cold tolerating plants such as brassicus plants (cabbage, broccoli, etc.) all winter long. If it gets really cold you might not get a lot of growth, but use either white or clear plastic sheeting and they will do well for you. It has gotten to 5 degrees here with production in my covered beds. Hope this helps.

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