Thursday, September 8, 2011

The big cool down

In our semiarid climate, it's always amazing how fast the weather can cool down as the days shorten. Some folks I talked with the last week of August were despairing that it would cool down anytime soon. Then, wham. The first of September was officially 96 degrees F in Denver with a 68 degree low. By the 3rd it was 71 degrees with a 48 degree low.

The losers in the vegetable garden are the warm season vegetables. Tomato fruit have slowed ripening and summer squash are not producing fruit seemingly overnight. The winners are the cool season vegetables for those who had the space and foresight to seed them mid-summer (July).

Nights under 55 degrees F will cause tomatoes to shut down for a few days to a week, especially with nighttime temperatures reaching 41 degrees F, the official low on Sept 4th. Mature fruit on these plants will eventually ripen but the cold affects flavor. New and young fruit tend to stop development.

This is the time to think about season extension growing tunnels if you want to keep these crops producing through the fall. When temperatures drop 14 degrees below the desired 55 degree nighttime, tunnels almost have to be plastic on hoops as row cover fabric only provides a few degrees of difference.

Even though these temperatures are ten degrees below normal and we will likely still see some warm days, more nights in the forties are predicted over the next week. The cool season leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach and kale are loving the temperature change to cool and don't need season extenders in early fall.

Photo credit: Two types of kale and lettuce - Carl Wilson

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