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.
I live on a 2/3 acre homestead in a residential neighborhood. A major goal is to demonstrate how much food a non-expert can produce in my particular climate and hardiness zone, with the soils native to my immediate area. We have gardens of annual and perennial plants, keep laying hens and honey bees, and regularly bite off more than we can chew. Another major goal is to pay off our mortgage as fast as possible. Here I blog about frugality, self-reliance, gardening, cooking and baking, food preservation, practical skills, half-baked experiments, and preparing to thrive in a lower-energy future.