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Long drinks better than short for thirsty plants

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Caliente. Heiss. Chaud. Het.
Those are just a few other words that mean hot in Spanish, German. French and Norwegian (I couldn’t resist).
I just thought you’d like a few other terms to use while we’re sweating bullets in this heat. Even I think it’s hot, and that takes some doing.
I bet many of you are thanking your lucky stars that you mulched the garden. If you mulched some things and not other, you’ll see a big difference in how the plants are handling the heat. If you didn’t mulch at all and continue to till or pull weeds, it’s not too late to change your mind. Layers of newspaper, covered in straw, go a long way to keep moisture in the soil.
A little shade can be put up as well. A makeshift canopy or tarp that relieves some of the afternoon sun from the garden will help as well.
Just as we need plenty of water to stay hydrated in this heat, so do our plants.  I drink at least a gallon of water a day in this heat.
Our plants need at least an inch of water a week, but with this heat, I’d say more.
Water plants in the early morning, before the sun gets too hot. A long drink is better than short shots. A long drink is letting the hose run there for 15 minutes. Flood the area if you can. Frequent short waterings just give you shallow roots that dry out quicker than the deep ones.
Now is the time to give your tomato plants calcium. You can use eggshells or oyster shells that you get at the farm store. Work a few tablespoons into the topsoil around the plant and water well. This will help prevent blossom end rot later on.
Speaking of tomatoes, some scientists revealed interesting news last week. Years ago, heirloom tomatoes used to get red ripe, but still have some dark green on the shoulders. Hybrids eventually got rid of that trait, but now scientists have found that those green shoulders are flavor savers. So, if you see heirlooms on the market, with a little dark green on the top, those are flavorful tomatoes.
Just cut the green off.
If you have some time after watering everything, there are other things on the July to-do list.  Check your bean leaves for holes and the caterpillar that’s causing them. Dust with baby powder every 10 days to keep them from eating your plant.
Cucumber beetles are also out and the cause of sudden wilting and death of a cucumber, cantaloupe and melon plants. Dust with baby powder. Keep an eye on your squash plants now. If you see some gray mold around the flowers, remove what you can and improve the air circulation around the plant. It’s the weather that causes this stuff and the squash will rot on one end.
I took some days off last week to pick berries and plant the fall garden. It was Het. I’m delaying planting the bottom bed that I reserved for fall crops. I have to hand carry the water down there.
The little house garden has hose access, but I’m still going to wait a week to put stuff in the ground. No sense stressing out plants even more. We’ll have time. I’m planting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and more potatoes.
With the stress of the heat putting our plants through the ringer, don’t forget to give them a dose of chamomile tea. This gives plants a healthy boost, which helps them deal with pests and disease. Steep five bags in a gallon of water and give each plant a cup, or spray the plant in the early morning.
Now, get out pen and paper and write yourself a big note to post on the refrigerator. Write “Count the number of fogs in August.” The number of fogs in August portends the number of big snow dumps we’ll have in winter. Just thinking about snow now might even cool you off a little. I think I’ll make my own with some watermelon and ice cubes in the blender. Snow cones, anyone?
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.