Safeguarding plants

How to protect against extreme weather

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Severe weather and extreme temperature changes can wreak havoc on a garden. Erica Finch, associate manager at Isle of Green Garden Center in Marshalltown, offers tips on how to protect plants and flowers against such threats.

Summer in Central Iowa can bring extremely hot days, chilly evenings and severe weather including hail, lightning, floods and droughts. Erica Finch, associate manager at Isle of Green Garden Center in Marshalltown, offers some tips in safeguarding your plants this season.

“Plants stop growing in extreme heat. They don’t like it,” Finch said.

She noted how most pansies are done growing now, as they don’t like heat. She recommends substituting these flowers in your pots and flower beds with petunias, vinca, snapdragons and dianthus.

When temperatures start to climb into the 90s and beyond, plants are at risk for drying out.

“Put potted plants in the shade for a couple of hours a day to give them a break from the sun, but they don’t have to be brought inside,” she said.

Summertime thunderstorms can bring hail and wind gusts that may damage delicate plants and flowers.

“If it’s in a pot, move it into the garage or inside. Covering plants can help too,” she said. “Hail will probably do some damage to perennials, but won’t kill them.”

Tomatoes and peppers can be impacted negatively by hail and heavy rain.

“Try to protect them. If their tops break off, you’re not likely to get fruit from them,” Finch noted. “Tomato cages can help.”

While severe weather can be hazardous to your garden, lightning can actually be beneficial.

Electrical energy separates the nitrogen atoms in the air, which then fall to the ground with the rain water. Once the nitrogen atoms combine with minerals in the soil, it forms nitrates, which serve as a fertilizer.

Finch said that begonias, succulents and impatiens don’t appreciate heavy rain and excess moisture, nor do shasta daisies.

“Also, blanket flowers may suffer with heavy rain because they like it more dry and hot,” she said.

For people wanting to launch a flower garden and don’t know where to begin, Finch recommends starting with geraniums, which are one of the most popular flowering plants in the United States. They grow well in full sun and even partial sun environments, in beds, hanging baskets and indoors.

“Geraniums are always the go-to plant. They can go anywhere and take any conditions.” she said.