Monday, June 9, 2014

Growing vegetables in changeable weather

Tomato growing out of Wall O'Water. These
tomatoes are the same ones that were protected
from the hail discussed in the previous post.
By June 9 you might expect the weather to be consistently warm to support the growth of warm season vegetables. At Denver's mile high elevation it isn't so. Low temperatures last night reached 43 degrees F and tonight's low is predicted to be 49 degrees.

Plants such as tomatoes and peppers are set back by lows under 50 to 55 degrees F and take days to resume growth. Development and harvest of your tomato or pepper crop is delayed from the labeled days to harvest number for the variety. That number is based on favorable growing conditions.

Tomatoes growing in Wall O'Waters with a source of heat (warm water in side channels) fare better. Even though the tops may have grown out of the water walls the heat is enough to moderate a cold night and keep the plant actively growing for a close to on-time harvest.

Climate modification through devices such as Wall O'Waters is important for vegetable gardeners to practice in our changeable Front Range Colorado climate.

Squash seedlings growing in a hill.
On another subject I was recently asked why it is recommended that squash and other vine crops be planted as a group in hills. The answer is soil drainage. In addition to last nights cold, my rain gauge measured 0.8 inch of rainfall yesterday. That's enough to saturate and water-log soil without good drainage. This can lead to stunted growth and root rots particularly in our compact clay soils. Although gardeners may get tired of hearing people recommend the virtues of soil improvement for growing vegetables, it is good advice.

Photo credit: Tomato growing out of Wall O'Water, Squash planted in a hill - both Carl Wilson