British Columbia

B.C. horticulturalist offers tips on how to protect plants during heat wave

Record-shattering temperatures in Western Canada this week can be hard on your garden. North Vancouver horticulturist Christina Chung has ideas that can help.

Record-shattering temperatures have reached well into the 40s in many parts of the province

North Vancouver horticulturalist Christina Chung recommends putting a layer of mulch on top of garden soil during the heat wave hitting B.C. this week to try to help the soil retain moisture and keep plants healthy. (Submitted by Christina Chung)

North Vancouver horticulturalist Christina Chung does not want your hard work in the garden this spring to go to waste during this heat wave.

Temperature records are being broken throughout the province this week, with some parts of British Columbia seeing temperatures above 40 C.

This extreme heat this early in the summer season can be hard on your plants and Chung says much like taking care of ourselves, they need hydration and shade too.

"Watering early in the morning and just moving containers around so that they don't bake in the sun," are Chung's suggestions for keeping your plants safe.

She said watering in the afternoon when the sun is high and temperatures are at their peak, means any water you give them at that time does not benefit them.

"That water that you're hitting the plants with is likely evaporating, which is a waste of water, is a waste of your time, and really, you shouldn't be out there  ...  when it's so, so intensely hot," said Chung speaking Monday on CBC's The Early Edition.

If you are unable to relocate your container plants to a shady spot, Chung says set up something that casts shade on them instead. In her own garden, she pinned a bed sheet to stakes to do the job.

Another key way to keep plants protected during the heat, she said, is to apply a mulch cover because if the soil dries out it will not bode well for what's growing in it.

Watch | Christina Chung explains how to make and use mulch:

"It could be leaves, it could be straw, just anything in the garden to add like a protective layer to really buffer the temperature and the intense heat into the soil," said Chung.

She said fleshy vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers and young plants, especially leafy greens, can really benefit from this. 

"Younger plants, they are more susceptible to heat injury because their tissue is very soft and fragile. The roots are close to the surface. So those, I would say, to keep an eye on and to help regulate temperatures, and to help lessen the evaporation, is to apply a mulch," said Chung.

More heat ahead

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says that moving forward, B.C. is forecast to experience more extreme heat earlier on in the summer, as well as more days with temperatures above 30 degrees.

"While you can't take one event and say it's directly connected to climate change, this is consistent with what climate change will continue to do to our province," said Wagstaffe.

To protect against future hot spells, Chung suggests planting ground cover plants this fall or coming spring when the time is right do so. 

"Come next summer, you will likely have a nice mass of ground cover to help with erosion control, weed suppression ... that can help lessen the evaporation," said Chung.


Christina Chung is a new contributor to CBC's Creator Network. and will be making a series of gardening videos over the summer for British Columbians to enjoy and learn from.

LISTEN | Chung on how to help plants survive a heat wave:

Christina Chung speaks with Stephen Quinn about the best way to keep gardens vibrant in this continuing oven like situation. 5:07

With files from The Early Edition

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