July 27, 2022

Hotter Temperatures: What that Means and How to Prepare

Written by TreeUtah
Throwback to a Summer 1999 TreeUtah planting in Peoa, UT Throwback to a Summer 1999 TreeUtah planting in Peoa, UT

Heat is a silent predator – lurking in the periphery until the timing is right and then it pounces on your delicate herb garden, leaving it wilting under the scorching sun with little hope. For the last few years, Salt Lake City summers have been characterized by excessive heat. Each year, the summer season breaks records. This heat is a continuing extreme weather event linked to climate change and it has touched everything.

Everything from ourselves, wildlife, plants, and abiotic factors are experiencing the effects of this excess heat. In Utah’s semi-arid climate, we have very little moisture to spare, so every drop is critical. If heat levels increase in the air, the moisture in the soil can be affected too and dry out, which leads to less ground water for our wild landscapes, our gardens, the wildlife, and us. What can we do to prepare and protect both ourselves and our habitat from a predator as seasoned and pervasive as the boiling summer heat?

Planting for Drought

For a lush garden in the midst of drought and surging heat, choose plants that flourish in dryer climates.  We have done some of the research for you and we have a list of trees that do well in regions prone to drought. Making the choice to plant more drought-tolerant species could get you a three-for-one kind of deal. One, once a drought-tolerant shade tree reaches maturity, the surrounding area will be shaded, which leads to less money spent on AC in the Summer. Two, adding various types of drought-tolerant species can help diversify and allow resiliency to the ecosystem in the area. Three, adding native trees to the urban forest can limit the threat of invasive species from taking over.

Conserving Water

A drought-resistant garden, of course, will help reduce water use. While watering the garden, it’s also important to ensure water is being used to maximum effect by watering early in the morning or at night to prevent significant evaporative water loss and by refraining from watering when it’s too windy. Gardeners should also be mindful of prioritizing the plants that need water most: trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and then grass. Additionally, taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, running swamp coolers on the lowest setting, and other household water-saving efforts can go a long way in reducing the community’s overall water use. By conserving water, we can secure a reliable water supply for future generations and support the wildlife that makes Utah a beautiful, unique place to live, ensuring our community will be able to safely enjoy our remarkable habitat along the Wasatch wildland-urban interface for decades to come.

Personal Preparation for Extreme Heat

With increasing occurrence of wildfires in the region and indefinitely hotter, drier Summers, it’s a good idea to take measures now to do what you can to beat the heat and to have an action plan in place if you are in an area that is at wildfire risk. Keeping your house cool using tools beyond AC will help you find relief from the heat without overburdening the electrical grid or your wallet. These tools include adequate drapery or shades, weather-stripped doors and windows, and adequate insulation. It’s also important to ensure you are staying hydrated and have supplies ready to go in case of emergency, whether it’s due to wildfire or heat-caused power outages. The American Red Cross and the U.S. emergency preparedness website both have excellent advice and resources that can help us plan for the hot Summers ahead.

At this point, we know Summers will keep getting hotter and it’s important for us all to take the steps we can to prepare. As individuals and as a community, we can adapt and beat the heat.