View from the Garden: Avoiding Garden Dehydration

Photo: iStock

Last week, the summer heat really invaded the East End. I hate summer heat. Always have. Not good for the gardener, as they say.

To cope with it, I keep a drink in the truck that has electrolytes, a towel in my back pocket to wipe my brow and ultimately, I just try to yield to it.

But I don’t drink enough during the day because I get caught up in the work. When I get home, then I drink and drink, but this is not the proper way to deal with heat. Dehydration can sneak up on you, especially when working outside all day.

Our bodies are two-thirds water, and we need it for most bodily functions. Dehydration happens when we lose more water than we take in. This causes an imbalance between salts and sugars and affects not only our chemistry and our comfort, but, if left untended, can devolve into life-threatening heat or sunstroke. The common symptoms of dehydration are thirst and sweating too much. If you ignore these mild symptoms and carry on, you might experience worse ones: dry, sticky mouth, tiredness, dry skin, headache, dizziness, irritability and confusion. I’m glad I looked into this because I though my dry skin was caused by the sun, my summer tiredness caused by all that work, that dizziness experienced once in a while was normal, and I’m definitely not irritated or confused, no matter what my coworkers might suggest!

All those symptoms are signals that you need to drink. It’s best to drink continuously throughout the day. I do try, but it means trips to the truck or carrying a water bottle with me as well as all the tools I need for the task at hand. Cool or room temperature liquid is best, as are liquids with electrolytes, seltzer and cool herbal tea. Eat fruit for snacks (as fruit contains water). Avoid: caffeine and drinks with sugar.

If you, or anyone you’re working with, get feverish, very weak, becomes confused and/or loses consciousness, begin to cool them off in whatever way you can, give them water to drink and get them to a doctor at one of the walk-in centers or the hospital.

Now that I have more facts about dehydration, I’m going to make a real attempt to drink more during the day and maybe even tote a water bottle around the gardens. It might be inconvenient, but dehydration happens quickly in this heat and is even more inconvenient.

We get dehydrated, but guess what? So do plants in the garden and in pots.

These symptoms are easier to see. Plants wilt and die if left untended. It’s difficult for them to recover from a full tilt, so water them at the first sign of droop. Shrubs can also suffer from the heat. Any plants planted at this time must have regular attention. For those with irrigation systems, an adjustment in relation to heat may be needed. A good mulch will help preserve water in the soil. I like a light-weight mulch, and there are some good ones at the garden centers. If you don’t have an irrigation system, get out those sprinklers.

When planning your garden or adding to it, consider drought tolerant plants. A drought tolerant garden can be beautiful, easy to care for and help you save on the water bill. Some internet research about drought tolerant plants is well worth the effort. And, if one were to be very organized, a list of appropriate plants could be taken on shopping trips.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion, you can call her at 631-434-5067. For more information visit

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