The Gardens Recover After the Rude Start to Summer

Winter squash new leaves

 

In the early morning of June 18 as the sun was rising there was a severe frost here with lows down to 29 or even 28 degrees in some parts of my gardens. After the frost the weather remained on the cool side but in July we had a stretch of heat with highs reaching 95 degrees several times. The heat was joined with high humidity, scant rainfall, warm southerly winds, and mostly cloudless days. The heat wave has ended as of July 21 but the drought continues. Winds are coming mainly from the northwest and are dry.

The plants worst hit by the frost were tomatoes and corn. I was able to protect the winter squash as the temperatures dropped and only lost a few seedlings. Winter squash can tolerate frosts better than tomatoes so even plants that lost the first set of true leaves have come back. Today the plants have completely covered their mounds and are spreading from them. They have many flowers and a some are setting fruit. This “variety” of winter squash (Cucurbita maxima) is a cross I made of Red Kuri, Blue ballet, and Lakota. I have been saving seeds from it for 13 years. It grows quickly, a real plus in my climate, tastes good, and produces abundantly. It appears that even in the seedling stage my squash can resist temperatures 2 or 3 degrees below freezing for short periods of time. This was shown by a group of feral seedlings that I did not protect. They suffered minor damage to their leaves. After the frost I transplanted many of these feral winter squash into piles of rotted hay and now their sprawling vines are flowering.

 

Hills of Winter Squash on July 20, 2013
Hills of Winter Squash on July 20, 2013

 

I had to replace many tomato plants and not all the replacements were the same varieties as the ones killed by the frost. There were a few varieties- Peacevine, Elberta, Silvery Fir- that could not be replaced. I left the least damaged plants in place and hoped they would grow enough to produce a few tomatoes for seed. Now all three of the surviving plants are growing, not hugely, but growing just the same, starting to blossom and will produce more than a few fruits apiece. There will be plenty of seeds from these varieties.

 

Almost all of the Painted Mountain Corn had just come up about 4 days before the frost and was very tender. The plants were mostly in the three-leaf stage which was a good thing since the growing point was deep inside the wrapping of leaves where it was protected from the cold air. Even so, the outer leaves were badly damaged on a majority of the plants and this would reduce their ability to photosynthesize. For a while the plants struggled, leaves that had frozen turned brown and dried up. Some plants died. But by The first week of July new leaves emerged and by July 10 the corn looked as though it had never been frozen. On July 14 the first tassels began to peek from the center of some stalks. It is now July 22 and the corn has made a remarkable recovery. Plants are between 2 and 4 feet tall. Tassels are showing on these short plants but the anthers have not yet dehisced and the first signs of pistillate branches (“ears”) are evident. Flowering this early and on such short plants is normal for the variety although the usual height is closer to 5 feet at full maturity.

 

 

My garlic and onions were only slightly affected by the frost and continued to grow without interruption. The garlic has produced flower stalks which need to be cut off soon. I expect to harvest bulbs during the first week of August. The onions are growing slowly. The soil is only moderately fertile and lately has become dry during the two week heat wave. I still expect a big harvest of medium sized onion bulbs but that is two or three weeks off. I also planted pole beans, bush beans, kale, turnips, mustard, four varieties cucumbers, tromboncini squash, and zucchini, scallopini, and yellow crook neck squashes. Voles ate almost all the pole bean seedlings but I still have about a 15 foot long row. They also ate many of my Straight Eight cucumber seedlings before I set out traps. A total of five voles were trapped and killed.

The summer squashes came up the day after the frost and the plants have grown very large. The first zucchini flowers opened on July 20. Soon the scallopini and yellow crook neck will be flowering and then the tromboncini. The beans and cucumbers will be blooming later probably by August and I expect a small harvest from these. This year’s harvest will be smaller in some aspects or right around average for others. For a few crops like onions and squash the potential harvest looks good.

 

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