Recently, I’ve been growing more and more envious of posts on social media from family and friends about the “wonderful weather” they’re having and how they’re enjoying the first hints of autumn. It’s now past Labor Day, and my garden and I are still suffering the scorching heat of Southern summer. I can truly relate to the author’s quote above, longing to take off my flesh and sit in my bones, if it would only make me feel cooler. Unfortunately, it seems that is exactly what my plants are doing – losing their flesh (leaves) and standing in their bones (stems).
This summer, our days of 90 degrees plus began in May; and each month has brought more and more days of brutal heat. We also have had long bouts without rain. This one has lasted three weeks now. Clouds fill the sky, bringing hope of soothing rain; then they skulk away like a politician, leaving only broken promises.
Even though I’m watering my garden daily, some of my plants have died. Those that are still living are suffering from environmental stress. My chili peppers’ leaves are turning yellow and falling off. My raspberries and beans have yellowing and dried up leaves. And most of my plants have few flowers.
My harvests are suffering, too. Not only am I harvesting smaller quantities of fruits and vegetables than what I should be harvesting, the fruit itself is smaller than it should be. A quick peak at pictures from last year’s mid-summer harvests confirms that.
As depressing as this is for me, I am reassured that most of this is not my fault. It’s the weather. And my garden journal has substantiated that. Here’s a look at last summer verses this summer.
Every day, I record the day’s low and high temperatures in my garden journal. Monthly, I enter the data in a spreadsheet to note the monthly average temperature, the month’s lowest low and highest high, and the number of days above 90 degrees (or at/below freezing in the winter).
Here are the average high temperatures for Summer 2013 vs Summer 2014:
- May 2013: 80.7 degrees vs May 2014: 86.0 degrees ~ a 5.3 degree increase
- June 2013: 86.7 degrees vs June 2014: 90.9 degrees ~ a 4.2 degree increase
- July 2013: 87.6 degrees vs July 2014: 89.7 degrees ~ a 2.1 degree increase
- August 2013: 87.7 degrees vs August 2014: 91.1 degrees ~ a 3.4 degree increase
That’s a big difference! To make the difference even more obvious, look at the number of 90+ degree days each month for Summer 2013 vs Summer 2014 with percentage of the month over 90 degrees:
- May 2013: 0 days (0% of the month) vs May 2014: 9 days (29% of the month)
- June 2013: 9 days (30% of the month) vs June 2014: 20 days (67% of the month)
- July 2013: 9 days (29% of the month) vs July 2014: 15 days (48% of the month)
- August 2013: 10 days (32% of the month) vs August 2014: 22 days (71%)
Statistics don’t lie. It’s been freaking hot this summer!!
My rainfall statistics tell a similar story. For the months January through August, rainfall this year is 20.1 inches LESS than the same period last year! That’s a lot of rain not received.
It’s no wonder my plants are struggling the way they are. My garden journal tells me that it’s not gardener error but weather affecting my harvests. (And this doesn’t even take into consideration the loss to insects due to plants that are stressed and more susceptible.)
I’m praying for good rains and cooler weather to come….soon. If my plants can just survive long enough to reach better weather, my harvests can increase. And I might just be able to put up some more food for winter and gift giving. Until then, my kitchen is pretty empty.
What’s the weather like in your garden?