Monday, July 5, 2010

Horrific Heat


This gardening year certainly has been a change from last year.  We got rain almost every single day in June last year.  This year it's been incredibly dry and unseasonably hot since the beginning of June.  I've never had to water a garden so much in my life, and I've gardened in three extremely diverse climates.  Frankly, it's been a struggle to keep the plants watered.  But for a brief respite last week, the daytime temperatures have reached into the 80's and 90's most of the last four weeks.  Today, we're supposed to see 97 F (36 C).

I spent about 90 minutes watering the garden this morning, starting at 5 am.  I got some help from my husband's rain barrel, which he rigged up so that we could lay out a slow drip line through my three sisters planting.  All the corn fields around us look parched.  The plants are stressed, with their long leaves tightly furled and pointing upwards, giving them all a spiky appearance.  My own popcorn plants look somewhat better, but they're still not thrilled with the dry heat.  I hope the constant drip from the rain barrel along with my spot watering will see them through.

So far, the plant in the picture above is our only definitive casualty of the heat.  That's one of our two Hokkaido squash plants.  Over the last few days I watered it like crazy.  In the heat of the day, no amount of water seemed to perk it up, though it bounced back in the cool of evening.  Yesterday evening though, it still looked miserable and limp. It looked no better this morning, despite the extra watering I gave it yesterday.  Hokkaido is a northern region of Japan, where the sort of heat we're having would be very unusual.  So I guess it's no surprise this plant couldn't hack it.  The other Hokkaido plant looks to be doing alright, and I hope I can keep it alive.  I grew these last year and they are not prolific producers.  So the loss of one plant will mean a serious reduction in our squash supply this year.


On the other hand, a simple row cover has allowed us to keep several lettuce plants alive and well through the infernal heat.  This is a double layer of floating row cover, arranged so that the bed is shaded to the south.  It's pinned up on the north side to allow good airflow and prevent the row cover from making the bed even hotter than it otherwise would be.  It seems that simply keeping the soil temperature cooler, and the dark leaves out of direct sunlight allows the lettuce to tolerate the excessive heat and dryness.

They're saying we may get some rain on Friday, but we have another week of scorching weather to get through first.  I guess we have no worries about the late blight at the moment.  But this is a steep price to pay for that reassurance.

P.S.  Most of you who asked for kale seed have a small packet on the way in the mail.  I temporarily ran out of envelopes, but the rest of you should have your packets this week.

24 comments:

Jennifer Montero said...

That sun shade is a great idea! I've never gardened anyhere with that extreme heat. What a sensible solution.

If you ever need ideas to cope with constant, soul-destroying rain, I know LOTS of those.

Paula Adams Perez said...

Thank you again for the kale seeds! I couldn't BELIEVE when I saw your post offering it, and I was one of the first responders - I have been searching for that seed for months! :)

Here north of Seattle, it has also been a year completely different than last. This year we have had ONE day that got over 75 so far, and it has been cool and cloudy almost every day! Last night at the fireworks, we were all bundled up in hats and coats and fleeces. It was 52 degrees!

Chile said...

Scorching dry heat is the norm for us, so the plant varieties we pick are those adapted to it. Our squash leaves will wilt terribly during the day but perk up at night. Straw mulch helps keep the moisture in and hot sun off the soil, as well as keeping evaporation down.

Hope you get some relief soon!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

this heat is horrible!!! i am not a summer person to begin with and this is just awful. i sure hope we have a cool fall!

Debbie said...

We are suffering from heat also, but ours is a very humid heat, which is murder. You know what they say it isn't the heat its the humidity. Some of my plants are wilting to.

B.A. Goodjohn said...

Just got back from buying more soaker hose. I reckon it's worth the expense because without it, I'm going to lose all of this, my first garden! Lost the Kentucky blue pole beans to the heat last week - no buds/flowers and the beans were getting tough. Planted Enorma runners on a shady fence last week and hoping they'll do okay in this heat. 97 today.

Anonymous said...

Erm, I lived in Hokkaido for two years and yes, it does get up into the high 90s in parts of Hokkaido, including where I was and does so in MN, where I currently grow such squash. Second, that is a typical squash plant response to heat. If it doesn't perk up at night it's a bad sign. If it's stressed like that day after day it won't produce as well as if it weren't stressed. I'd recommend, strongly, some shadecloth. It's very commonly seen in Hokkaido for plants like this - look for a 30% or so for your situation. Good luck.

Lise said...

I planted 20 thimbleberry and salmonberry bushes this year, and they were doing nicely until this week; I didn't keep up with watering like I should have, and they all turned crispy in the heat. I'm so sad and disappointed in myself!

Anonymous said...

Last yr I had temps in the hi 30s and a week of 40C.
The squash all looked like it was dying during the day and came back to life every nite.What a crop of pumpkins!They are all heat lovers, just keep watering in the am!
barb

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Last June, what would we not have given for a couple of days like this? And this June, what we really need is a couple of days like last June.

We've spent more time outside with the hose than I care to think about, but our tomatoes actually seem to like the weather. And I can't help but be grateful for anything that's inhospitable to late blight.

Anonymous said...

We've had a much drier year here so far too. Like everyone else, each time I get the watering can out *again* I hope this at least means no blight this year. As long as it doesn't pour with rain all of August....

Hazel

Ken Toney said...

Thanks for the kale seeds. I've added this variety to my fall/winter garden plants list that I will start soon.

We too have been battling the heat here in West Virginia. Last year, we didn't see temps in the upper 80s all summer. It's going to be another scorcher this week, which means more time with the hose at night. Hope your garden recovers.

dining table said...

That sounds really bad. I wish there something we can do about those plants. I will visit your blog again. I am hoping for update.

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

I don't think I'm far from you. I'm in Central MD, the DC/Balt metro area. Today I just stood in the garden and watered it myself as the sweat poured off of me!!! My squash was looking a bit wilted too so i pulled out the hose and hopefully I will not loose much. My cucs are just coming on and I am afraid that I'm going to have to forgo the cabbage. The deer ate all my beets so I'm putting all my hope in a Fall Garden. It's been such a weird weather year. At least our water tables are up from the blizzards!

Leigh said...

I'm having the same problem. I like your idea for shading your lettuce. I need to try that for a few things too.

Andy and Cheryl said...

We are finally having heat in the Puget Sound. Difficult for tomato and pepper growing when it is not hot enough here....

Amy Lagerquist said...

I'm from the Puget Sound region, too. It's about time we had some heat, although I (and my garden) would probably be happy with temps in the 70s...the 90s of this week are a little much!

Your squash plant flagging in the daytime and perking up with water and overnight makes me think of some of our cauliflower seedlings last year. Turns out they had club root fungus. I wonder whether your squash is infected with a fungus that has the same effect, especially if it's only one plant of several showing symptoms. If it's a fungus, rip that plant out immediately and throw it away! We didn't...and now we can't plant brassicas in the same area for 3-7 years. Bummer, man.

CallieK said...

We're in the heat/humidity wave here in Toronto too and I am so thankful I hooked a soaker hose to my rainbarrel earlier this year - it's been a godsend! Thr garden is also somewhat shaded this time of year which helps too. I have most of my tomatoes and peppers in containers on the roof so I use the hose to give them a good soaking early in the day and the excess water drains off into the eavestroughs and ends up in the rain barrel. I've left the soaker hose on continuously for about a week now and the barrel has yet to run dry although we haven't had rain for over a week. The garden looks lush even in this heat!

Anonymous said...

Hi ,I'm new to your blog.I'm in Connecticut. Also watering two times a day , early Am and late in the day.I'm also seeing wilt on my squash and cucumbers, strawberry plants and the return to life at night. May I suggest you spray/ check for powdery mildew. with all this watering, even watering the plant base only, I have found this on my plants.After spraying for powdery mildew in the early Am , the next day no wilt.I hope this helps, I have seen way too many bugs this year on my plants, maybe the heat ??? best wishes Roxanne

Kate said...

Jennifer, the soul-destroying rain was last year this time. Looks to me like I need tricks in the toolbag to deal with the full range of challenging weather.

Paula, glad you got the kale seeds. I'd gladly swap you a bit of our heat for a bit of your chill right now.

Chile, thanks. Good to hear I'm not the only one seeing the wilt-perk cycle in squash.

Jaz, I'm hoping for some (relative) cool well before fall. A girl can dream.

Debbie, high humidity is much more the norm here. We just haven't had much rain lately, so this heat is relatively dry.

B.A, sorry to hear about your lost beans. I think these challenges are what eventually makes a skilled gardener though. Hope you get some relief.

Anon, thanks for the correction on Hokkaido's climate. It gives me some hope for the remaining plant. And yes, we did put in some shade cloth.

Lise, perhaps if you keep watering them they'll come back next year. Perennials can surprise you.

Barb, that's what I've been doing. It's quite the task to get everything watered early in the morning, but I'm doing my best.

Tamar, I know! Feast or famine I guess, with both rain and heat. Also, the other benefit of all this dry heat is that I've hardly seen any mosquitoes lately.

Hazel, don't even say that! That would be all we need - one unseasonable extreme and then another.

Ken, you're quite welcome, and I hope your garden comes through as well.

dining table, thanks for the good wishes.

Diane, I encourage you in your interest in a fall garden. The challenge is to stay motivated to plant in summer while everything else is going on. But fall gardening is very rewarding.

Leigh, good luck with it.

A&C, yes, the heat sluts are admittedly happy with this turn of events.

Amy, thanks for the tip on club root fungus. I'll have to go take a look at the plant I pulled and stuffed in the compost. If it looks too weird, I'll put it in the trash instead.

CallieK, sounds like you have an elegant catchment system there.

Roxanne, welcome! I haven't seen any signs of powdery mildew this year, though it's something I've seen in other years. I am seeing some squash bugs, but not too many. I control those by gathering them and feeding them to the chickens. It's like poultry crack.

Zoe said...

What I wouldn't give for a trade! A third of the plots - at minimum - in the community garden where I grow me vegetables are little lakes. They'll get their money back, but no gardens for any of them this year. And even those that aren't flooded - mine being one of the lucky ones - are struggling with hail and almost constant rain.

Anonymous said...

OK, I promise not to mention it again!

Re: the wilting squash, I thought only brassicas got club root? They're certainly the family most susceptible to it. I've never heard of squash getting it.

Hazel

swineinsanity said...

Would straw help? I am also wondering about a litter pop bottle or milk jug with holes buried next to the plant...

Kate said...

Zoe, it's always something, isn't it? Sounds like you're having what we got last June. Hope things improve where you are.

Hazel, I looked into club root, and I believe you are correct. Didn't see any sign of it on the squash I pulled out of the ground.

swineinsanity, I was going to go with straw mulch at the beginning of the year, but I couldn't locate any that was nearly as cheap as the wood mulch I could get from our township. The lighter color of the straw would almost certainly have made things easier on the plants. But the expense would have been significant, and of course I had no idea in April that we'd be having such extreme temperatures this year. Live and learn, as usual.