Extreme Heat, Wilting Leaves, and Overwatering

Wrekkless(7a)July 1, 2013

Hi All,

Like a lot of others in the West, here in Utah starting in on our 2nd week of daily 100+ temperatures. Yesterday I think we peaked at about 105.

I have moved all my sunloving veggies (toms, peppers, eggplants) in my little patio so they are getting morning sun from about 7 am until 10:30-11:00 am and a bit of filtered sun in the late afternoon and the ones that can tolerate more shade to where they get some morning sun and then filtered afternoon sun. Right now, at almost 10:00 am it is about 85 in the shade and almost 100 in the full sun.

I have all of my veggies in 5-1-1 mix in various size containers. Toms, peppers, and eggplants are minimum 5-gal up to 10.

I'm trying to balance their need with sunlight without them getting fried, which is proving tricky.

They are still setting fruit, which I'm thrilled about, since I didn't know if they would in this heat.

Sticking my finger in the container down to the 2nd knuckle, the container soil is staying moist and cool, which is great, but at the same time, the toms, eggplants and peppers are looking all droopy with sad, wilting leaves from the heat.

My question for you experienced gardners out there is do I water them to help them perk up, even though the soil is moist and cool, or let them perk up on their own as it cools down? My 5-1-1 drains very nicely, with very little, if no, perched water, so would it be possible to overwater them since the soil still seems to be moist?

Any advice would be great appreciated.



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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Almost impossible to overwater the mix you describe. With that kind of heat/sun I would be keeping them watered/drenched daily. I use wooden skewers to test soil dampness down to about 12".

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 3:49PM
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Hi Ed!

Yeah, I've been using the skewers like you suggested previously. They come out damp and cool, but plants just look so sad and droopy anyway. (I stuck my finger in just to double check actual coolness/moisture with my own senses). Before, you might remember my soil was drying out so quickly, and then I readjusted with more peat, and now it is staying moist nicely for a couple of days even in this heat...but the plants are still wilting and drooping. My instinct is to give them a drink, and they perk up when I do, but just didn't want to overwater them, killing them with 'kindness' :)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 3:59PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

OK, so it must be the heat that's making then wilt, it's the only thing I can figure. Have never had healthy plants wilt in the sun when they had water to drink, but then again have never experienced the kind of heat you all are getting these days. Sounds like a bit of shade is the best remedy :-)

Just a thought.....it's interesting that they perk up when you water them. I know that sometimes when my mix feels a little damp, it doesn't necessarily mean that there's alot of water available for the plant to drink. I can picture a healthy tomato plant in your conditions drinking at least 2 gallons of water per day.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 6:47PM
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I agree with Ed. Last summer when we had excessive heat I had to water at least twice a day or the plants looked droopy. I also do a weak liquid fertilizing when I water and alternate with a granular fert also.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 10:39PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Do a test on one of the movable plants.
When the plant is wilting in the sun but the mix still feels moist, move it into the shade for 15 - 30 minutes. If it perks up without water, then clearly the issue is the direct sun...rather than a need for water. I've done this "test" with several friends and family members to convince them not to overwater their plants.

We've had four days over 100F (108F on Saturday, 106F on Sunday), and I haven't watered my #5 containers of 5-1-1 since Friday morning when I fertilized. I find that if I keep the containers shaded from that intense mid-afternoon sun, my peppers won't droop. I just angle nursery flats on the southern side of the pots.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 2:05AM
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I live in the same type climate that you do. I'm in Western Colorado, in Fruita. All my plants remain outdoors in full sun even in the high heat (we've hit 108). The one's in containers are in SIPs, and as long as I keep the reservoirs full the plants take the heat just fine. They are thriving. Others are in raised beds with Mel's MIx and are also doing fine. I haven't mulched or shaded or anything. I think water is the key. By the way, my containers basically have Mel's Mix in them too.

the attached photo is from about a week ago. As you can see, the container plants are fine, and in the background the raised bed veggies are good too. Best of luck with yours!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 11:46AM
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