Gardening In North Carolina Summer Heat, And Humidity

By Nikki Tilley | July 12, 2021
Image by Elenathewise
by Nikki Tilley
July 12, 2021

There’s nothing extraordinary about where I live here in the Southeast, except when it comes to our uncomfortably muggy summer weather.

Summer Gardening in North Carolina Weather

I live in a fairly quiet rural area on the outskirts of the city. I’d rather be further away from all the hustle and bustle of city life, but it is what it is so I try to make the most of it. I’m thankful to have good neighbors and plenty of garden space. What I dread most about living here is the summer heat and humidity. Gardening in North Carolina heat can be challenging at best – in fact, it’s commonly been referred to as a “special kind of hell.”

Temps in the 90s are normal (occasionally 100) with high humidity, making the heat index even hotter. And when a NC heat wave hits, and it most always does, gardening of any kind isn’t at the top of my to-do list (and gardening is one of my favorite things to do). Since we experience frequent periods of drought, rain is always welcome; albeit when it comes, it’s either too short lived to matter or is a massively devastating storm. In other words, it’s hit or miss. Where I’m located, much of our rain gets derailed by the mountains. And we seem to fall within the donut of space that hardly sees anything other than a teasing drop of rain, while everyone around us gets plenty.

With North Carolina weather, we can experience all four seasons in one week, especially in spring. That or we simply skip spring entirely and jump straight into summer. We’ve already had a drier than normal spring, and we experienced a very late frost PLUS 90-degree temps early on”¦ all in the same month. Ugh! Generally, it’s the summer heat that starts to kill off your plants, but with temperatures becoming warmer earlier, it’s even more difficult in the garden. Spring is supposed to be comfy, not boiling hot. Transplants are already trying to acclimate from indoor life to the outdoor garden as it is. When it’s excessively hot, this becomes even harder. And then there’s all the new plants popping up that now have to struggle with the heat before they’ve even had a chance to fully wake up from their winter’s nap. It’s a gardener’s worst nightmare!

Gardening in the Heat

North Carolina in summer is no picnic either. It lasts for what seems like a lifetime, with the heat hanging around well into October, sometimes later. Is there even a fall anymore? While the heat makes gardening difficult enough, the humidity can make it stifling outdoors. I can see my perfect vegetable gardening sign now – Today’s Menu: High Heat with a Thick Slice of Humid Air.

You can literally hear the grass crunching beneath your feet, and your prized garden plants wilt in desperation, meaning it’s imperative to keep things watered; but OMG, it’s nearly unbearable. When you do water the garden, hopefully early (though it’s usually hot then too), you have to deal with our slightly above average mosquito population. I’ll once again be slathering myself with vinegar after I’m nearly eaten alive. I’m one of those unfortunate individuals these blood-sucking vampire wannabes seem most attracted to. Soaking in bug repellent doesn’t help. Speaking of soaking, wear something comfortable but be aware that this will be stuck to you by the time you’re finished in the garden – hmm, can I water plants with wrung-out sweat?

I’ve lived in North Carolina all my life. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, but lately the heat seems to get worse with each passing year. I’m beginning to question my 7b hardiness zone, or maybe I should recheck our heat zone. My plants may be suited for my region but as North Carolina weather changes, perhaps this will too. For now, I’ll be looking for plants that love heat and high humidity, and that tolerate drought as well as fluctuating conditions with little help from me since I’ll be hibernating in the AC, daydreaming of a Goldilocks garden – somewhere cooler, but not too cool. Somewhere warm, but not too warm. Somewhere just right.

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