Cruel Summer: Gardening in a Hot Season
It’s fairly clear we’re going to have a hot summer along the Front Range. KUNC Gardener Tom Throgmorton says the key to maintaining a beautiful garden is knowing which plants thrive in the heat, and which ones will wither and die.
A warm summer weather pattern has formed. Some vegetables love the heat. If you can keep them watered, they thrive. Others struggle through the hot days no matter how tenderly they’re cared for.
Tomatoes and peppers are heat lovers. I’ve heard ‘the hotter the weather the hotter the jalapeno.’ Consistent moisture is the key to these fruiting crops. Irregular water causes the black sunken spot on the bottom of peppers and tomatoes. It’s called blossom end rot. The fruit is still edible; just cut off the bad area.
Vine crops also like the heat. You can almost see Zucchini and other squash vines grow in the heat, if they’re getting plenty of water. Squash stressed from lack of water or poor soil abort flowers and fruit.
Beans need more water than any other vegetable, especially in their flowering and fruiting stage. If flowers are falling off or the pods are curved, the beans need more water.
To conserve water around heat-loving crops use mulch. Organic mulch is a double benefit to vegetable gardens. It holds in moisture and adds organic matter as it breaks down. Grass clippings, small wood chips and compost are all great organic mulches.
Some cool season crops just don’t grow in the heat but this makes them great in mountain gardens. Peas become pale green and stunted. The hotter it gets the quicker spinach and lettuce goes to seed. This is called bolting and makes these leaf crops bitter. Peas and salad greens love to grow in the sunny days and cool nights of high elevation gardens.
Most annual flowers are heat lovers. With regular water and fertilizer nicotiana, petunias, geraniums and cleome will be a blast of color until the first hard frost. Pick off the old flowers. The more old flowers you pick the more new flowers you get.
Keep impatiens, pansies, begonias and sweet peas in the shade. These shade lovers grow in full sun in the high country. Most winters pansies bloom until the ground freezes.