What to do when your conditions include extreme heat or cold

In addition to that glowing ball of energy in the sky that provides plants with energy, temperature is perhaps the next most important factor in growing a successful garden. Every winter the weather forecasters talk about orange crops freezing in Florida, and the damage caused by freezing temperatures. But what about the other extreme, when the mercury climbs to unbearable levels? High heat may also damage plants.

So, what do you need to know about temperature ranges in order to maintain a garden? First, understand the climate where you live. Does it rain a lot but rarely freeze? Does it get very hot and dry during the summer months? Does it freeze or snow on a regular basis? Second, understand how the sun and the environment affect temperatures. If plants are in an exposed area, such as an open balcony where wind, sun, or snow may pelt them, they may not thrive.

Most plants do well in the mid-range of temperatures, about 50-70 F, in a stable environment. If there is a drastic drop in temperature, plants may freeze (frozen plant tissue does not photosynthesize or conduct nutrients well!). If it gets too hot, plants may also die, as they wilt due to the rapid evaporation of water from their leaves, their leaves getting sunburned and shriveling up.

Any long-term exposure to high heat or low temperatures will adversely affect plants that are not used to it (cacti obviously do well in a hot desert), so protect them by surveying their location, moving them if needed, and checking on their health frequently.