4 Ways to Keep Your Garden Happy in the Heat

Using straw (and weeded vegetation) as a mulch can keep your garden happy.

While you’re out and about during the summer, it’s important to remember that your garden is also likely under the effects of the heat. Let’s review what you can do to help keep your soil and little green buddies happy and thriving in the hot summer months.

  • Water early in the day: If the sun is shining brightly while you water your garden, the moisture you provide will evaporate away. So, water early, by 10 am at the latest. If you’re watering solitary plants (as opposed to a grass bed), point your watering can to the base of the plant. 
  • Use a drip irrigation system. These babies can keep a continual, but minimal, supply of water to your plants, keeping them happy and perky. You use less water, and your plants thrive. Win-win.
  • Apply mulch to keep the soil moist: Covering your soil is a must if you want it to retain any water during a heat wave. Add a mulch of organic material such as compost, leaves, or even dried grass clippings. The extra layer shades the soil and acts as a lid to keep the moisture near the roots. Also, be sure to water before adding the mulch. 
If you add a drip irrigation line close to the base of your plants, you can use much less water and keep them up to the heat.
  • Consider using a shade tunnel. These handy things will do two things for your plants. They’ll act as a wind barrier, keeping moisture where it needs to be and not accelerated by blowing wind. Shade tunnels will also keep leafy greens perky and able to thrive.
  • Finally, while it’s certainly too late in the MN summer to start planting new perennials, you might want to consider for the next growing season plants that do well in direct sun and heat. Veggies like sweet potatoes, okra, peppers of many varieties, tomatoes, and cucumbers all love direct sun and heat. That’s one way to turn a scorching summer into a positive.

Let us know if you have any ideas for dealing with summer heat. Leave a message in the comment section below. Happy gardening!

How to Beat the Heat (Advice for Humans AND Animals)

It’s been a scorcher this summer.

That’s the hard part about being a gardener. There is a non-stop list of work to do, so being able to take time off during the peak heat is pretty-much a non-starter. With little rain, extreme heat and the hottest month ahead of us, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit a post we did a few years back that shows what our gardeners do to stay cool during the hot months.

Cover Your Skin

You can see Rochester wearing a wide-brim hat to keep the sun off his neck.

Wearing shirts and long pants that cover your skin is one method they recommend. In the times with high heat, the clothes (if lighter, like white or sky blue) will repel the heat. Cotton is the best fabric to use as it allows perspiration to occur. If you can avoid jeans, you’ll be better off, as well.

Also, if you can cover your face with a sun hat or even a baseball cap, your skin will appreciate it. Since your head is the first thing to receive the suns rays, it will be taking the brunt of the heat. Simply using a hat will minimize your exposure to the heat, allowing you to stay cooler for longer.

Work Earlier in the Day

The crew works early in the morning before the day starts to warm up. As it’s usually cooler earlier in the day, it’s a perfect time to get exerting projects done.

It’s not a particularly unique idea, but working when it’s cooler out is a no-brainer. In fact, I just read that trash collectors in Washington DC are expected to start working during the early morning in this summer to get most of their routes done before it gets too hot.

In the same vein, they take the time to take breaks. Our garden crew takes a few minutes every hour to come inside, have a drink of water, and relax. Staying out of the heat seems like a simple solution, but it works!

Drink Something With Electrolytes

Hay Time Switchel is a drink long used by farmers and harvesters.

If you can’t get out of the heat, then it’s important to combat the effects of the heat. Working in the sun causes your body to sweat. (No kidding!) Sweating is important to stay cool, but the salt (electrolytes) lost in the process is necessary for proper function.

Drinking water is great, but you still need to replenish the lost salt in your system. That’s why “Gatorade” has such a following. But, you don’t need to go out and buy a sports drink. You can make your own. We’ve got a recipe for Hay Time Switchel that will get you back on your feet.

Hay Time Switchel

  • 1 Cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup light molasses
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 quart cold water

Combine all ingredients and stir well.  Makes 6 seven ounce glasses.  This can be refrigerated, but old timers made it with cold spring water and said nothing quenched a thirst or cooled a dusty throat in haying time as this drink.

Keeping Your Animals Cool

I had a chat with a coworker who fosters lost and injured wild animals, along with normal pets. She’s got a lot of experience involved with the caretaking of animals and she says that animals don’t really need much help from humans.

“They’re smarter than us,” she joked. She says they’ll find a way to cool off, whether that’s removing themselves from the sun, rolling in mud (if they’re pigs), and dunking under water. She even described how squirrels will lay on their belly with their arms and legs stretched out and “heat dump” on the ground.

Squirrels will “heat dump” to cool off during the summer.

But, the one thing she says we can do is just keep their coping mechanisms in mind. If they like shade and water, keep it around for them to decided when to use it. Keeping clean water sources such as shallow bird baths for your feathered friends and even deeper dishes for larger wildlife are accepted and used when needed.

Do you have any ways to keep your pets and animals cool during the hot stretches? Let us hear ’em in the comments below.

Meat CSA Program to Aid Both Local Farmers and Local Watersheds

Up the Creek Meats came from the simple idea that not all farming is the same, and to farm in a way that protects our soil and water resources takes skills, knowledge and physical abilities that have value beyond that of the cost of a double quarter pounder with cheese.  The abundant water resources in our area provide us with many benefits; beautiful scenery, food in the way fish and irrigation for crops, and income as a popular tourist destination.

How cattle are raised has a specific and direct influence in the quality of the watershed where they live.

What happens upstream affects water quality downstream and if we care about the quality of the water in our lakes, we should support the farmer and rancher upstream.  We should understand the challenges they face to produce our food and to protect our water.

And we should pay them well for their efforts.

Starting only a few years ago with the UMN Regional Sustainable Development Partnership “Cows for Clean Water” marketing study in 2017 is one way we have been working to build support for this concept. Work on the feasibility of a mobile slaughter unit followed soon after that and is where the name Up the Creek Meats originated.

While not in production, yet, Up the Creek Meats will provide meat from producers who are committed to raising their animals in a way that protects the health and soil of their region.

This effort was recently given a big boost with the support of the MN Lakes and Rivers Advocates and the concept of “meat shares” in support of clean water.  Working in conjunction with local lake associations, lake association members order shares from a producer in the watershed who is implementing adaptive grazing management on their farm or ranch and thereby protecting the health of the soil and our water resources.

As a pilot program, there are just a few producers on the list and marketing is being targeted to just a couple of local watersheds in the area, but MN Lakes and Rivers Advocates is a statewide organization and has started a campaign to educate its entire membership on the Up the Creeks Meats concept. 

HDT’s work to grow good stewards and build capacity for local processing and distribution in support of area farmers and ranchers will continue, but in the meantime it’s encouraging to know that others are taking up the charge, and the understanding that agriculture done well heals. 

Welcome Home Little Chickens

Happy Dancing Turtle will be the home for fifty chickens for the summer. We plan on keeping these beauties on campus for around through August, when they’ll be collected and butchered. (It was explained to me that they’ll live a really good life and then have one bad day.)

You may not know that baby chicks can be shipped right through the mail. We got a neat call from the Pine River Post Office last week. Just listen to the happy little ones!

You’ll never guess what we got in the mail!
Meet one of our “chicken tenders.” Avery will be making sure the chicks are well taken care of during their stay at HDT.
Look how happy the little chirps are!

Our chicken coop is something a little different. It used to be a car park where we stored our garden and maintenance equipment. With an upgraded storage space on campus, we reused the space for a coop.

Home Grown Stewards – Daily Activities

The third component of our new Home Grown Stewards program is our private Facebook group where we post daily activities for families.

For 9 weeks this summer, from June 15 – August 14,  participants can log in every weekday to find a new activity that can be completed at home, either with no materials needed or items you already have on hand. Each week has a different theme that the activities are based on.

Monday’s activities with Kim are aimed at our younger learners while Wednesdays with Ellie include a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) activity.

Finishing up our third week, we’ve already had some fantastic activities! The theme for the first week was birds, with followers encouraged to make a bird’s nest out of natural materials and other objects found around the house, engineer a bird that actually flies, craft silhouettes for their windows so birds don’t fly into them, and more!

Week two, which emphasized the importance of pollinators, had families fashioning a bee bath because bees and other pollinators need fresh water just as much as humans do, creating a butterfly feeder, and simulating pollination with a homemade bug.

Here’s a sample of the cool stuff you can find out in our daily activities group.

With many families out of town and busy with 4th of July festivities this, the third week, we issued daily outdoor challenges, such as going on a listening walk, observing and relaxing in nature, and picking up litter.