Ah. The heat of summer. We dream about it all winter and then try to escape it mid-summer.
How to minimize the effects of summer heat?
Here are our top five ideas for cooling yourself down this summer, naturally:
1. Grow a lawn. It is not a good idea to grow a new lawn during a heat wave, but it is a very good idea to grow a lawn to escape summer heat. Cut your lawn about 7 to 8 cm high to encourage grass roots to go deep. The deeper the grass roots and longer the blades, the cooler your lawn. Grass transpires tonnes of water during a sunny day. It captures carbon and produces oxygen while it is at it. The result is a naturally cooler environment on a lawn vs any solid surface, including a wooden deck. We do not recommend that you water your lawn during a drought, as it will generally bounce back in August when cool evening temperatures return. Even in a relatively dry state, a lawn is a cool place to hang out.
2. Grow a tree. You might think this is obvious, but not to everyone. The immense cooling impact of a tree on our city and in our yards is often underestimated. Mark recalls the large maple that towered over the first house he owned. Its leafy foliage enveloped the entire corner of the house where his bedroom was located. And never, even on the hottest nights of the year, was there any temptation to acquire an air conditioner.
Fact is, a mature maple will transpire over 400 litres of water on one sizzling summer day. The cooling effects of this can result in temperatures that are up to 12 degrees Celsius cooler than the surrounding area.
Deciduous trees, the large, leafy ones, work best for a cooling effect but all trees help.
3. Cooling mist. Last year we discovered a new product that pulverizes hose water into a fine mist and cools the area within its reach by up to 10 degrees Celsius. The nozzles are multi-directional and provide infinite variations of intensity. Place the metre-high mister nearby and enjoy a cooler environment for reading or just lounging. We met a roofer last spring that used this “garden accessory” on roofs to cool his workers on hot days. In his words, “it works like a charm.” Plants, not just people, can benefit from the cooling mist, too.
4. Cool your neck and forearms. When you cool down your vital pulse points, you cool down your entire body. We discovered a neck band that is filled with a gel that expands on contact with water. Soak the fabric band in a bucket of cool water for a few minutes, wring it out and wrap it round your neck while you work.
5. Broad-brimmed hat. We are ball-cap guys, when we wear a hat at all. But experience has taught us that there is NOTHING that cools the body down like a broad brimmed hat. The broader the brim, the cooler you will feel. Plunging your hands into cool water, beyond your wrists, will cool you down significantly. As will a long sleeved, light fabric, white shirt.
And don’t forget to drink lots of water.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, on Facebook and bi-weekly on Global TV’s National Morning Show.