How to Help Warm Weather Crops Cope with the Cold
“Many of you have asked what this [cold spring weather] portends for this summer's weather. To be honest, I can't tell you--there is simply no relationship that I know of that can provide a useful answer. One thing for sure...there will be plenty of water supply this summer for irrigation and power generation. And this says NOTHING about global warming.”
Parent Category: Growing
Created on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 23:56
Written by Kathy Morse, WSU Master Gardener
Cliff Mass, Cliff Mass Weather Blog
The big question, what does this cold weather mean for planting warm weather crops? Tomatoes, Eggplant, peppers, squash, beans and basil all need
the warm weather to perform. So what to do?
Unless the warm weather crops are the only ones you are planting, one option would be to concentrate on cooler weather crops leaving the professionals to do the warm ones for you in protected environments and buy from your favorite Farmers’ Market.
Or you can take action. Erect a hoop house now to warm up the soil so that when you plant them in a few weeks when it is hopefully somewhat warmer so as not to shock the tender plant. If it turns out we have a hot summer (right!) you can always take it down, but right now it is important for the warm ones to have a good start. Tomatoes are the least temperamental of the warm crops. Eggplants and peppers, if they have received a sustained cold period, may never recover enough to give you a decent crop. So when growing them up, keep them on/in at least a 50-60 degree area (cold frame, heat mat, sheltered area/greenhouse) and as strong a light as you can provide to keep them from getting leggy! Be careful where you buy them - if they are sitting out in a rack and it is cold/windy and rainy, buy them somewhere else.
To warm the soil now in preparation for your plants: Remove any heavy/ straw mulch from the soil. Put a milk jug or other protective device (hot caps, bell jars, walls of water, tomato cages wrapped with kitchen garbage bags, etc.) on the spot where you want to plant squash and put in some rocks. The sun will warm the soil and the rocks will absorb the heat keeping the temps up. Place some remay or black plastic over the soil in an area where you want to plant beans, sweet potatoes There are also poly, paper/ biodegradable film mulches in differing colors that can be used as well for a host of uses both to increase production and to keep soil warm and some for keeping it cool for brassica crops. There is a product carried by territorial called Gro-Therm which is a perforated film which gives you more heating power than Remay and also eliminates the need for ventilating. Check the back of your seed catalogues for information on these. I am going to try some this year for my sweet potatoes which I have already ordered and now have to find a way to make them grow during this cool season we are having.
Whether using a hoop house, hot caps, or whatever, a warm sunny day can bake your plants if you have not vented it, so keep a watchful eye on things! Keep things watered. If you are using some of the mulches noted above, you will have to install your soaker hose/irrigation tubing under the mulch before laying it. If you are using these mulches, do not cut through the planting spot until you are just ready to put the plants in the ground to keep as much heat in as possible.
Make sure that you “harden off” (a gradual introduction to the outside environment) the plants before putting them in the ground. If you are buying plants from a vendor, ask have they been “hardened-off”? To “harden off”, take them out side into a partly sunny, protected area for just a couple hours the first day and then increase the time outside or in a hoop house, if you are using one, until the plant can stay out all day - then plant! They need to get used to the sun and the wind
makes their stems strong.- if you put them in the sun too fast they may burn and introduce them to wind gradually also as tender stems don’t hold up well to some of our gale forces!
Water plants, even those in the ground under protection with warm water so the roots do not get shocked. Water your plants well before you plant them out and then water again after planting to set the plant.
I know these all seem like extraordinary measures but these are extraordinary times! It must be as I haven’t even seen many slugs yet. Mason bees just now coming out as are most of the apple blossoms - great timing!
Plant some white alyssum all around your garden. They are great at attracting beneficial insects and they smell amazing!