I don’t know how to interpret this summer’s weather other than to say climate change is not coming, it’s here! Since mid-June, the temperature has climbed to over 95°F every single day at my house. I’ve been without A/C since June 23, so I sympathize with my plants, which are wilting or burning up. The broccoli limped across the finish line in July, giving me one of the sparsest crops I have had in years, and so far, I have not seen any side shoots. I may as well pull it out. The peas had barely begun to produce when the vines turned to crispy critters. The poor carrots fainted and bolted in the heat. I quickly picked the lettuce and wrapped it in wet paper towels and put it in a Ziplock bags to preserve a small number of heads. Thanks to steady watering, my tomato plants are still green, but the flowers dry up without producing any signs of fruit. It’s just too hot for them to set. It is safe to say that the eggplants and the peppers are the only plants that are (relatively) happy and producing.
Although August is usually the month to direct seed many greens such arugula, collards, corn salad, Oriental greens, Swiss chard, cress, lettuce, endive, kale, kohlrabi, mustard and turnip greens, I can’t imagine how they will fare in the excessive heat once they germinate. You may want to wait to sow some of these delicate greens until late August or even early September when it often cools down substantially after Labor Day. Unfortunately, I won’t even get to try for a fall vegetable garden because TID water went off in mid-July for the season! If you are lucky to have garden irrigation the latter part of this summer into the fall, you can sow for later transplanting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage and Pak Choi. You can also direct sow daikon radish, beets, peas, parsnips and rutabaga. If the hot weather persists, planting onions (as you usually can do for next year’s crop) would be a waste of seed as they do not geminate well in very hot weather.
If your beans are producing, be sure to pick them regularly so that they continue to produce. They may also need some fertilizer and more water to continue production. Fertilize vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers while they are in heavy production. If you planted corn, this is the month for your corn feast. Early in the month, give your corn another shot of fertilizer to get it across the finish line. You can also try hand pollinating for fuller ears. When the ears start to appear and the tassels are yellow-transparent, strip the tassels on top of the plant of their pollen and shake it onto each ear. Whenever I do this, I am pleased with the results.
August is usually when I start canning and preserving what my garden produces. Peaches usually ripen now and they can be frozen, dried or canned. For several years, I have been making what I call vegetable pasta sauce which is simply a medley of whatever vegetables are ripe at the time together with tomatoes. My very favorite canning recipe book is The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. I love their recipes! Every one I have tried has been perfect for me.
We are in the brave new world of climate change.
I would welcome your comments on how gardening is changing in the Rogue Valley and tips on how we can adapt to still produce the fruits and veggies we all love. I’ll include your tips in this column in the coming months.