Garden log, 6.19.14

Let the whining commence: It’s SO hot outside. It’s just disgusting. I went out at 7:30 this morning to extend the drip irrigation to the transplanted fig tree. After half an hour I couldn’t stand myself. High of 96, 42% humidity, feels like 101. At least the gardenias love it.

I feel torn about the garden this time of year. The perennial beds need mulching again, as any shredded leaves I put down earlier in the spring have thinned out. But even early in the morning, I can only move three wheelbarrows’ worth of shredded bark before fatigue sets in. Heat exhaustion is real and comes on quickly.

This time of year I start looking for small garden projects I can do indoors–things that can be accomplished in the laundry room or elsewhere in the house where a little dirt can easily be cleaned up. Do you have projects you tend to when the weather becomes too much?

Cooling it: Helping your veggies through intense summer heat

Getting a good harvest through the summer, particularly in areas where temperatures regularly rest above 90F (32.2C), can be challenging. Today, it’s 97 (36.1C) and still. I watered early in the morning. A thick layer of straw mulch covers the ground around all the vegetables, and shredded bark mulch protects the ornamentals, but it doesn’t feel like much help.

Seeing my plants droop in the heat makes me depressed. More importantly, heat-stressed plants are more susceptible to viruses, fungal diseases, and all sorts of nasty stuff. So today, in anticipation of these ghastly temperatures, I went spelunking in the shed and found the old patio umbrella and cast iron stand. I set them up on the southwestern corner of the raised bed, where the umbrella shades the beans, tomatoes, and some of the peppers from noon until sunset. They do get morning sun, as well as reflected light all day from the gravel paths close by.

It may sound ludicrous, but providing your vegetables just a tiny bit of shade, particularly from the afternoon heat, can make a big difference in their resiliency over the season. Give it a try.


Garden log, 5.12.14

It’s so hot outside. At 9 p.m. it’s still nearly 80 degrees F (26.6 C), and it’s early May. After dinner, I went out to water because everything looks desiccated and weak. What will August look like?
Almost all the bearded iris are spent, but ‘Carolina Darkness’ is just coming into bud. I think this will be the last one to flower this year. Had three Iris germanica flower this year for the first time: ‘No Count Blues,’ and two more, pictured here, whose names I do not know.

Iris germanica 'No Count Blues'

Iris germanica ‘No Count Blues’


I will try to find them out from the American Iris Society website.

The other summer plants are beginning to assume their places on the stage: Joe Pye weed, which I feared had succumbed to the long winter, is now 18 inches high. Kniphofias that did not have flower buds three days ago now have large, cone-shaped flower structures coloring up, soon to burst into flame. Fat yarrow buds sit atop foliage three feet high. I pinched back the oregano growing in the herb scree by the street, but no one could ever tell.

The flower structures of Kniphofia look like bottle brushes or Christmas trees.

The flower structures of Kniphofia look like bottle brushes or Christmas trees.

Picked a handful of peas this morning and again this evening, but with temperatures like this they won’t last much longer. It’s a shame, because this is the first year I’ve grown peas and gotten any harvest to speak of. The physalis (ground cherry), on the other hand, has doubled in size in the past few days and I expect it to only go on a tear from here. Lettuce got sunburnt on Saturday and has spent the time since under some shade cloth. I have tiny cucumbers on very small vines.

Tiny pickling cucumber forming.

Tiny pickling cucumber forming.