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What to do during hot spells

Minnesotans like to talk about the weather. If we think how hot it will be in July and compare it to January — there is almost a difference of 160 degrees between the two months.

The hot weather, besides causing problems with just trying to keep up with watering, will cause poor pollination in many of our plants. This means different things to different plants and causes we gardeners to think we have diseases in the garden. In fact, right now, most of our problems are caused by the high temperatures.

There is little to nothing that we can do for some of the stranger things that happen during really hot spells. There isn’t anything we can use to treat our poor plants but patience, patience, patience on our end.

A first area that is greatly affected is pollination. Pollination during hot spells can wreak havoc on most, if not all plants. Field corn and soybeans during the pollination period will also see this. For gardeners the biggest tipoff is perfectly healthy plants but no to very few vegetables on the plant. Flowers will drop off of plants during really hot weather in order to keep the plant alive. You will especially see this in pepper plants and tomato plants which are in the same family.

Vining crops will also drop their flowers. These include melons, pumpkins/squash and even tomato plants. The more traditional vining crops such as melons, pumpkins, and squash will have more male flowers than female flowers, which means you will actually see flowers but they will not produce any vegetables.

Bees, the most needed insects that we have for pollination reason, take time off when it is too hot as well. We may see them early on in the morning and then just before the sun goes to bed. Otherwise, you will not see them as much during the hotter times of the day.

Tomatoes can be a bit tricky in when and how they turn the beautiful red color that we are all so much looking forward to having at this time of the year. The green tomatoes may be ripe but don’t turn red. This is because the steps that a tomato takes to turn red cannot happen when temperatures are constantly over 85 degrees F.

If you are seeing poor or disfigured vegetables, it is because it is too hot and pollination has not occurred at a level of which the plant needs to give us vegetables that we are used to seeing. There is nothing wrong with the vegetables but they may be curled up or disfigured to some degree or other.

Fertilizing more or watering more will not change how pollination works. It all depends on the bees and how long they are willing to work out in the heat. If they are spending less time buzzing around our plants, then we will see disfigured vegetables. As summer starts to fade to fall, tomatoes will turn red once again. All is not lost. We just need to take time to figure out how creative we can be with the vegetables that are looking a bit different than what we are used to seeing.

For more information about gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

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