Summer is officially underway and the events that come with it are in full swing.

The pleasures of gardening is something many look forward to every year. While we did get a nice amount of rain recently, it is important to remember that not just field crops are susceptible to the hot and dry temperatures. Garden plants can be under just as much stress.

Knowing what to look for in regard to plant stress is a large part of being able to help the plants survive this harsh summer. A well-known sign of plant stress is wilting. I’m sure many of us have seen a sad looking tomato plant with leaves hanging limp. Limp, low hanging leaves is a stressed plant showing signs of stress. Another sign to look for is curling of leaves.

This is a common sign to see in corn plants. Leaves begin to curl when the water that is being pulled up through the roots is less than the amount of water that is being lost through evaporation in the leaves. To prevent this evaporation loss, leaves curl as a form of protection for the overall plant.

Yellowing of leaves is another sign to look for. Leaves can yellow under many circumstances from drought, overwatering, pests, and many other options. Considering the weather conditions we’ve had, and will likely continue to have, make sure to include yellowing due to lack of water a consideration. Something else that can occur to vegetable plants is abnormal growth. An example of this can be tomatoes and peppers. If the plant endures a long drought period followed by lots of rain, blossom-end rot can develop. This is where a black, or flattened spot appears near the blossom side of the fruit.

Ways to prevent stress in garden plants is to have a solid watering routine in place.

Watering in the morning is ideal before temperatures get very hot, and water provided can be immediately lost to evaporation. A watering method for consideration would be to water long and hard, followed by a few days to allow plants to dry out.

This is a way to train the plants’ roots to grow further down into the subsoil, as opposed to being in the topsoil where it is more prone to water evaporation. The further down in the ground, the greater the water storage. If plants can set root down further it allows for the plant to be more efficient and maintain that much more moisture for longer periods. Furthermore, deeper roots help prevent plants from lodging and can support more fruit production.

For more information on these topics and more, visit the University of Minnesota Yard and Garden News at

Source: Mercedes Moffett, Rice and Steele County Interim Extension Educator.

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