Long Hot Summer in the Garden ?

It’s certainly shaping up that way. Here in the Hudson Valley we’ve had temperatures in the high 80’s (and more) on and off for about a week now, making this our third blasting heat wave before the first of June.

thermometer showing 100 degrees

May 26th, 2010. Outdoor temperature on left, indoor on right. It WAS 4:30 in the afternoon, and the probe though in the shade is on the west-facing porch. But still...

It’s dry, too; the thunderstorms have missed our place, but even the people they’ve hit haven’t gotten much in the way of rain.

Midcoast Maine’s the same, in its cooler (but-not-as-cool-as-it-should-be) way, and now on the morning weather report, this:

… Air quality alert is in effect from 6 am Monday until 11 PM
The Maine department of environmental protection has issued an
air quality action day for western Maine. This includes the
following counties…
Androscoggin… southern and Central Somerset… Cumberland…
York… Kennebec… Franklin… Oxford and Sagadahoc.
Western regions of Maine have already reached unhealthy levels of
particle pollution due to smoke from wildfires in Quebec. People
with a heart or lung disease should reduce their level of


* Plant in water-catching depressions, shallow basins for individual plants: tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, etc.,  trenches for row crops such as beans and greens.

* Space plants a little more closely than recommended – 10 inches apart instead of a foot, for instance. Overlapping leaves help shade the soil and the unbroken foliage mass holds humidity. (This is of course a huge negative if the weather turns cool and wet the way it did last summer. Be prepared to sacrifice plants if that happens, so air circulation can be restored.)

* It’s especially important to coddle transplants: put them in in the evening, ideally before a day that’s predicted to be overcast. Water in well, then give a drink of very weak liquid seaweed solution, about 1/4 the usual strength. Protect from the sun for several days. The protection need not be fancy or total; a generous sprinkle of straw is fine.

* Keep water near. This would be a good year to invest in a drip irrigation system, if you’ve been considering that. If not, see if there’s a way to leave a hose all set up and ready to go. Remember that the water sitting in a hose in the sun will be boiling hot; don’t turn it on the plants until the temperature goes back down.

But of course you don’t want to waste all that water, which is why there are several large buckets placed here and there: plastic garbage cans if you don’t care about looks, half whiskey barrels or gorgeous ceramic urns if appearance is important.

Plants really appreciate getting water that isn’t a hideous cold shock and it’s very handy to have the water there all ready to just dip out. Be sure the containers also contain cakes or granules of larva killing Bacillus thuringiensis, sold at garden centers and hardware stores. Mosquito Dunk is the best-known brand, so widely distributed it’s often used as a generic, but any formulation that specifically targets mosquitoes will do.

*Be even more alert than usual for pests. Water-stressed plants summon bugs, especially  leaf hoppers and aphids. If necessary, spray in the late afternoon with insecticidal soap. Avoid spraying the soap or indeed any chemical on leaves that are about to be broiled by mid day sun.

* Mulch

* Mulch

* Mulch

Photo by Bill Bakaitis

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1 Comment »

  • Thanks for this useful post, Leslie! I’ve been worried about the heat–we’re in for another heat wave starting July 4th. It’s been my understanding that when it’s too hot for a sustained period (including high overnight temps–like around 80), that many veggie plants drop their flowers before they fruit (e.g., tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc.). Is that true in your experience?

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