July 28, 2022
It doesn’t take long for plants to become stressed by this summer’s intense heat and lack of rain. It’s probably safe to say the same for most gardeners.
Here are the strategies we are using to keep the vegetables in the north garden healthy in the heat:
- Research to find out which plant varieties are best suited for the region
- Water twice a day with two short cycles of 30 minutes using drip irrigation
- Mulch heavily
- Use shade cloth to protect fall tomato and pepper transplants and plants showing signs of heat stress.
When we realized the fall tomatoes were getting scorched we improvised with cardboard so that we could get ourselves out of the sun that day. Later we used tee posts with binder clips to secure the shade cloth. We removed the shade cloth for about four hours in the morning and replaced it in the afternoon for just a few days before taking it off completely.
We remove plants that no longer look healthy or have slowed down their production. This was true of about half of the cucumbers. They can be restarted by seed outdoors in August.
We are also trying a method called ratooning to improve our late summer and fall production of peppers and okra. Leaving some leaf axils for photosynthesis, we are cutting low performing plants back to eight to ten inches from the ground. The articles below will provide more information about the practice. According to the one from Clemson, ratooned plants will have the benefit of a strong root system and not take as long to produce fruit as a new transplant.
As for our heat stressed vegetable gardeners, a mixture of iced tea and lemonade has become the drink of choice on our Monday workdays. A slice of watermelon or a delicious watermelon salsa helps too.
Beverly Allen, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2018, encouraged by Ann Lamb
Pictures by Don Heaberlin, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2021