Back in February, when we were giving our presentation at the Metropolitan and Johnson County home and garden shows, we used to end our talks with a little tongue-in-cheek optimism. The upcoming year, we said, would be the “best year ever.”
That would usually get a chuckle out of the experienced gardeners in the crowd. This is Kansas City after all. About the only time of year you can exclaim it will be the best ever is in February, before the punitive weather patterns have had a chance to do their damage.
So here we are on Friday, July 13, in the middle of one of the worst drought/heat waves I can remember. Days on end of high 90s and 100s. And no rain. Not even a sprinkle.
Yet this is turning out to be one of the best years–at least for our later-season veggies. True, early spring hot weather was not great for the spinach, lettuce and cauliflower, which usually need cool and moist. The broccoli isn’t looking so good, either. But the tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers are doing great, as is the always dependable chard.
So, yes, the endless heat and drought are frustrating and hard to take. But having a steady harvest of vegetables anyway makes it a lot easier not to despair, as we have in other drought years.
Having lived this long in the area, we’ve come to expect rough, dry summers. In fact, it’s a mild surprise when a summer here doesn’t include a drought. So over the years, we’ve come upon a few tricks.
*Soaker hose: I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating. The little hose that leaks water at ground level is a lot more efficient than any of the ones that rain water down through the air. This year we use soaker hoses almost exclusively. Some part of the garden gets watered every day. Last week when the water bill came, I held my breath. It was…hey, not too bad. Higher than usual, but not bad for a severe drought.
*Mulch: Grass clippings quit being a mulch source early on when the grass quit growing. Luckily, we had a big pile of straw from a couple of bales we bought last fall to mulch strawberries and herbs over the winter. Since it can be hard to find straw in the spring, it might be worth buying extra this fall.
*Fertilizer: Yes, that composted horse manure for a stable was definitely worth the evening trip out to shovel it. Improving the soil with manure and compost helped give the seedlings a leg up back when we had rain in the spring.
*Drought-hardy varieties: Some types of tomatoes and cukes just do better in the dry than others. We’ve had continuing good luck with Roma and Celebrity tomatoes, Pickling Alibi cucumbers and Blue Lake bush green beans, to name a few. Having lived here a good long while, we usually look for descriptions in the seed catalogs that mention drought resistance. (Too bad my favorite Black from Tula tomatoes are not doing nearly as well this year.)
Nobody likes a drought, least of all me. But I’ve been accused before of being too much of a “Debbie Downer” about the weather patterns here. So in the spirit of optimism, here are a few good things about dry weather:
*Weeds don’t grow as well between the plants. Especially true if you’re using a soaker hose, which targets only the plants you want.
*Fungus isn’t as much of a problem. We’ve seen hardly any powdery or downy mildew this year.
*It’s possible to let your tomatoes touch the ground with no ill effects. Normally, a tomato touching the ground will quickly develop a bad spot and rot. This doesn’t seem to happen with powder dry soil.
*Root vegetables can stay in the ground a little longer. Our potatoes and carrots are still out there, mainly because there just isn’t enough moisture to encourage new shoots from the mature vegetables.
There now. Optimism for the week. That said…
LET’S HAVE SOME RAIN!!!!
Posted by: Roxie