Monday, July 13, 2015

July in Kansas

All I need to do is look at the weather forecast to know that it is July in Kansas.

We all may be grumbling about today's "excessive heat" warning, and the fact that the highs for the rest of the week are in the low to mid-90s, but that is what you expect in the middle of July in Kansas. At least we've recently had rain. This is the first week this summer that every day has a forecast high in the 90s. We should count ourselves lucky.

Grayhead coneflower.
In the meantime, broccoli and lettuce seeds I planted in little pots on Friday are already sprouting on the porch. In a couple of weeks I will move them to a semi-shaded spot that gets a bit more intense sunlight, so they can get strong and stocky before I plant them in the garden the middle of next month. It seems a little nuts to be planting cool-loving crops when we are hitting the highest heat of the season, but it's now or never if you want fall broccoli and cabbage and kale, that will just get sweeter with a bit of frost.

Yes, I'm thinking of frost as the high temperature climbs steadily toward 100 and the highest chance of rain for the next week is just 30 percent. My rain tanks are full and the hoses are at ready. Today I planted more bush beans so we can have more tender green beans in a couple of months. Beans don't take as kindly to frost as the brassicas, but we should get a good crop of them before we need to worry about frost. When I plant my baby broccoli in the garden I'll also start planting seeds of radishes, lettuce, spinach, bok choy and probably some other things I've forgotten. Carrots and beets get planted now, as well. If you plan to protect them with plastic once frosty weather sets in, you may plant some of these things just a bit later. One year my radishes, carrots and beets under cover continued to grow well into November, maybe even December. Once the carrots and beets are grown, they can be protected by a thick layer of mulch and harvested until the ground freezes.

When planting cool-season crops in the heat of summer, water water water and a little shade are the things to remember. I recently bought more soaker hoses and really need to order some drip irrigation supplies. I should already have my drip irrigation system in, but 10 inches of rain during the last two weeks of May, and continued rain in the first couple of weeks of June made it seem like a task that could wait, especially when weeds are taking over everything. Even though we've recently had rain (more than 3 inches just last week) the high heat tells me I really need to put some serious thought into the drip irrigation system. I'll be spending the next few afternoons indoors, so that's top of my list (after all these phone calls I've got to make today).

Baby watermelons! Summer squash! Tomatoes!

Writing about freezing weather, frost and late-season vegetables hasn't dried up the sweat at all. It's still HOT outside, but thinking about the timing of it all makes autumn seem much closer than I'm ready for it to be. So I'll think about all the lovely things about July. Like peaches! They're little but abundant this year. I'm picking them hard but with a red red blush and hoping they ripen and don't rot on the counter. Sun Gold tomatoes -- sunny flavor and juicy -- and cucumbers finally started. The daily salads change their character.

Next month our summer apples will fill the baskets, Then more apples over the next couple of months. Gladiolus, zinnias, phlox and many wildflowers bloom right now, with extra color added by the butterflies. The next six weeks will seem long as the days are hot, sunny and dry. So September will be welcome.

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