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Over the Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Weather Continues to Impact Our Vegetables

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

The local weather has moderated a bit, yet our vegetable production is still way off of what we typically expect for this time of year. Since we tend to our gardens, vegetable plants can look pretty good, but where are the peppers, beans and tomatoes? Vegetable plants respond very quickly to the extremes in temperature and the loss of soil moisture. Gardeners can manage the moisture with water, but can't do much about the temperatures and the hot drying winds that are often with us during high temperatures.

We try to keep an even amount of water in the soil, but there are those days when the plant is water stressed before we get home during the week or after taking a long weekend. The plants are wilted, we water and the plant comes back. The brief stress is enough for the plant to abort flowers and that delays the next set of harvestable vegetables. Uneven soil moisture can lead to blossom end rot on the tomatoes fruits that are forming. Blossom end rot is also out there on our peppers and summer squash too. We have all seen cucumbers that go from plump and round to skinny, and then back to a larger diameter. This is the result of uneven water during the rapid fruit development.

When we talk about temperatures it is mostly how hot it got or is forecasted to get during the day. Daytime temperatures certainly contribute to the lack of good production if we get flowers and they are pollenated and begin to grow. A factor that is not often talked about is the night time temperatures. A vegetable plant will wilt during a hot day and recover overnight as we have cooler night time temperatures. That becomes harder for the plant if the night temperatures remain high.

Our vegetables would prefer overnight temperatures in the range of 60 to 70 degrees. As temperatures increase above 80 -85 degrees at night, no fruits are set. If you go out into the garden and look closely you will see flowers formed but never setting fruit. Once the flowers age, they will fall off.

You can quickly see that between the lack of water and the higher night temperatures, home vegetable gardens have suffered. One way to help provide an even amount of soil moisture is to mulch to conserve the moisture that is already in the soil any that we apply. That even watering will prevent fruit rots and help the plants recover at night from a hot day. If your garden is productive, be sure to harvest in the early part of the day before any wilting occurs. Gardeners can use soaker hoses under the mulch to conserve much more of the water than when we water overhead with a sprinkler. All the water goes into the ground without evaporation into the air.

We have begun to see cooler day time and night time temperatures, so production has a chance of returning. It is way too early to give up on the garden.



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