Never Mind the Heat, Summer is the Best Time to Garden

Monday, August 6, 2012

As Published in the Miami Herald

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity — a common lament of South Floridians who complain that walking from the office to the car may result in an involuntary five-minute sauna. The heat can be brutal this time of year, but when compared with the triple-digit temperatures of many other parts of the United States, I will take our wet, humid summers to their record-setting drought, oven-set-to-broil temperatures every time.

While others may find refuge in their air-conditioned homes, I embrace South Florida’s summers as the hands-down, best time of year to garden. I know that when the rains are falling and the humidity is positively sliceable, I can work absolute magic in my yard.

Everything is growing. You can feel it as you walk your yard and the humidity wraps you up like a warm blanket. You can see it everywhere as the spring newness of the garden has been long replaced by lush and vibrant tropical growth.

New leaves are emerging everywhere this time of year like on the flowering shrub Clerodendrum minahassae.

Summer means that everything you plant will be watered by the generous hand of Mother Nature. I planted some native shrubs recently after work and will wager that the initial watering I gave them will be the last, as our daily rain will keep them moist and growing well enough that they will be fully established by the time the dryness and cooler temperatures of winter arrive.

This time of year is not only primed for planting, but pruning as well. I know that every cut I make with my hand pruners or saw will result in new growth. I need not fear that the new buds brought on by my pruning will be zapped by a winter cold front, and I can rest assured they will thrive and harden off well before temperatures drop.

In the summer, blooms and buds abound, like on this hearty Galphimia gracilis.

Gardening in heat and humidity has its drawbacks of course, as you will definitely sweat. But by working in the early morning or late afternoon and staying hydrated, you can begin to shape your garden into what you want it to be.

If you truly enjoy working in your yard, then give summer gardening a try. You will be hot and you will be tired, but in the end, you will be quite pleased with what a few hours or even minutes of sweat will produce.