by David Hinks
Notwithstanding the number of overcast days when rain or thunderstorms have been threatening we have actually had very little rain in the first two weeks of July. Statistics for Ottawa airport show that only 3 mm have been received in July to date compared to 122 mm in June. Granted the actual amounts in our local area may have been somewhat different as the thunderstorms are unpredictable as to where their rain will fall. Compare these numbers with the average rainfall required by most vegetables of 25 mm a week and it is obvious that we have not received nearly enough rain in the last two weeks. The average temperatures have also risen considerably. The mean temperature for the first two weeks of July has been 21.9 as compared to 17.5 for June, an increase of 25 per cent. Already we are seeing some signs of hot, dry weather in our yards as lawns are starting to show signs of stress.
While plants have been drawing on moisture reserves in the soil from all the rain that fell in June we are reaching the limits of these reserves and it is now time to apply water if the vegetables are to keep growing well and produce a bountiful harvest. As I have mentioned many times, mulching helps to conserve moisture. As well proper soil preparation with lots of organic matter (compost) added improves the structure of soil allowing it to hold much more water. Surface soil that is loose or friable will prevent run-off in a heavy rain and absorb more water. A light sprinkling everyday is counter-productive as it encourages plants with shallow roots that will not have the capacity to withstand dry weather. Soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and do it only once or twice a week. Do not water at mid-day or in the hot sun if you have alternatives.
Try drip irrigation or using a watering wand. If you have a sprinkler that puts the water way up in the air you are going to lose much more to evaporation. Plants require more water when blooming and in very hot or windy conditions.
And remember not to overdo it in the heat. It is much better to work in the garden early in the day when the temperatures are at their lowest. Remember to take frequent rests and keep hydrated.
While I lost most of my broccoli plants to a fungal disease that spread very quickly in hot humid weather, many of the other vegetables and herbs are doing very well. While some are gaining quickly with hotter sunny weather many crops, such as sweet corn and tomatoes are probably a week or so behind where they were last year.
The sweet potato vines are starting to sprawl and have even produced a bloom to remind us that they are a close relative of morning glories.
The beans in the photo are bush beans that were planted May 19. They are in full bloom and are setting fruit. They will be ready to pick in a week or so.
The beets that were planted at the same time are still a couple of weeks away from being large enough to harvest. They will need to be thinned very soon. The leaves can be used for beet greens which are very similar to chard (a close relative).
Come and see the Augusta Park Community Park and Garden Wednesdays in July. There is musical entertainment featuring Arleen Quinn. This Wednesday there will be a Barbeque starting at 6 with the Almonte Civitan Club flipping the burgers.