Monday, March 19, 2012

Hot Momma! The Importance of Hydration

SWEAT is an important function of our bodies. Gardeners aren't exempt from the risks involved with overheating. As a person with a spinal cord injury, my body does not handle the heat very well. I perspire very little below my chest. Because of this, I do not "naturally" cool down the way I should. As people age, they too are more at risk for the dangers involved with heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Often, I get busy with my morning routine, and get out much later than I should. This is generally okay early in the season, but as Summer heats up, it puts me at a much greater risk of experiencing heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. I am writing this blog now, because we are already experiencing 80+ degrees, and it seems like that it is only going to get hotter.

My advice to any gardener would be to get out early, or go out later to avoid the heat of the day. Protect your skin with a no pore clogging sunscreen, sunglasses for the eyes, lightly cover up, and keep cold water very close by. I have a dorm size refrigerator in my garage full of water and Gatorade. I also keep a fan in there. (My cat enjoys this too.) I pay attention to the location of the sun as well, and try to work in the shady areas whenever possible. My favorite setting on my garden hose is the mist setting. As it gets hotter, I take more breaks. I have containers on my back porch that I can take care of in my pjs early in the morning, and I can generally take care of the front containers in the late afternoon. In July and August, I may have to make a quick dash out front to "save" my tomatoes. When it is 100 degrees out, my containers may need watering twice a day. The reality of gardening in the South!

Our plants are important, but we have to take extra precautions so that we do not overheat. Drip irrigation would be ideal in every garden, but generally there is always something that requires a little extra care. In our case, we have to put ourselves before our plants! My best advice is to avoid working in the garden during the hottest part of the day. Plant drought resistant plants if you live in the hot South!

It may sound simple, but we all push our limits. Hydrate, or take a plunge if possible. Stay cool!

Drought-Tolerant Perennials

Here are some of our (mine too!)favorite perennials that tolerate dry conditions. Drought-tolerance varies from one region to the other, so be sure to get advice from good gardeners in your area. For more ideas, check with your local Cooperative Extension office.,default,pg.html

Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Anthemis tinctoria (golden marguerite)
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)
Aurinia saxatilis (basket-of-gold)
Baptisia (false indigo)
Calamintha nepeta (catmint)
Coreopsis verticillata (threadleaf coreopsis)
Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower)
Echinops ritro (globe thistle)
Euphorbia polychroma (cushion spurge)
Gypsophila paniculata (baby's-breath)
Helianthus angustifolius (sunflower)
Hemerocallis (daylilies)
Lavandula angustifolia (lavender)
Liatris spicata (gayfeather)
Limonium latifolium (sea lavender)
Malva sylvestris (mallow, zebra malva)
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)
Rudbeckia fulgida (orange coneflower)
Santolina chamaecyparissus (lavender cotton)
Sedum (stonecrop)
Stachys byzantina (lamb's-ears)
Solidago (goldenrod)
Thymus (thyme)

I've included basic information from WebMD:

Understanding Heat-Related Illness -- Symptoms
What Are the Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses?

Heat cramp symptoms include:
Severe, sometimes disabling, cramps that typically begin suddenly in the hands, calves, or feet.
Hard, tense muscles.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include:
Excessive thirst
Muscle aches and cramps
Confusion or anxiety
Drenching sweats, often accompanied by cold, clammy skin.
Slowed or weakened heartbeat.
Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention but is not usually life-threatening.

Heat stroke symptoms include:
Nausea and vomiting.
Dizziness or vertigo.
Hot, flushed, dry skin.
Rapid heart rate.
Decreased sweating.
Shortness of breath.
Decreased urination.
Blood in urine or stool.
Increased body temperature (104 to 106 degrees).
Confusion, delirium, or loss of consciousness.

Heat stroke can occur suddenly, without any symptoms of heat exhaustion. If a person is experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, OBTAIN MEDICAL CARE IMMEDIATELY. Any delay could be fatal. You should seek emergency medical care for anyone who has been in the heat and who has the following symptoms:

Confusion, anxiety or loss of consciousness.
Very rapid or dramatically slowed heartbeat.
Rapid rise in body temperature that reaches 104 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
Either drenching sweats accompanied by cold, clammy skin (which may indicate heat exhaustion); or a marked decrease in sweating accompanied by hot, flushed, dry skin (which may indicate heat stroke).

Any other heat-related symptom that is not alleviated by moving to a shady or air-conditioned area and administering fluids and salts.

1 comment:

  1. Most of my gardening takes place early in the morning, away from the peak heat of the day. It's also the quietest time of the day. No noisy powertools, etc. Very meditative. I Always keep ice water and Gatorade close at hand. I do notice that pacing oneself is also a great idea. The heat down here sure can take it's toll!