When I lived in San Diego, a lot of people seemed to think that the Central Mid-West is “dry” and the South is “humid.” Boy, were they wrong! Some days (like yesterday) it is so humid that water (read sweat) trickles down your body, leaving huge sweat stains on your clothes, just from walking from the parking lot to the office. Sheesh! How unattractive is that?
Lately, if you happen to be out in the garden, then you get water running into your eyes and dripping off of your face (even in the early morning or late evening). Not getting heat stroke is a struggle. And all of the chard and kale is too wilty to bother harvesting.
Today it’s 100°F and sunny. When I go outside, it is like hitting a wall of heat. At least it is a little less humid than yesterday.
A lot of my garden doesn’t care for this heat (see the broccoli, below- it perks up with water and cooler temps).
As a consequence of this heat, I have to water almost every day.
I have noticed that different types of soil require different amounts of watering, and strongly affect how well a given plant grows.
I have three types of soil in my garden, heavy clay, sheet-mulched beds, and raised beds containing sandy soil.
The heavy clay soil includes a little bit of compost and/or composted manure worked into it, and holds the most water. The beds with clay soil don’t need watering every day. The surface may look dry, but if you dig down into it, the soil is moist. The clay soil seems to be OK with watering every other day, or maybe even every third day. Additionally, the plants growing in this type of soil are doing the best. For example, I have one row of okra growing in the clay soil and a second row growing right next to it in the sheet-mulched bed. The okra in the clay soil is doing well. The okra in the sheet-mulched bed is tiny.
The sheet-mulched beds aren’t doing as well as the clay soil beds. Two of the sheet-mulched beds contain a fair amount of garden soil mixed into the layers, and another two are mostly straw with compost and other amendments. None of these beds hold as much water as the clay soil beds. The straw/compost sheet-mulched beds actually hold the least amount of water, even though the straw becomes soaked. Further, the plants in these four beds just aren’t doing as well as the plants in the clay soil (see okra example above).
The sandy soil seems to be the worst of all. Water runs through this soil very quickly and it dries out rapidly. As a result, I have to water these beds every day, sometimes twice a day. Ugh! The plants seem OK, but I just don’t want to water that much.
I have been thinking about next year’s garden. I would like to use less water and have things grow better. It would be better to have more of the clay soil. Unfortunately, clay soil is very sticky when wet (won’t drain) and is difficult to work in the Spring (ask me how I know this).
So, what to do? I am leaning towards having the whole thing plowed under (with additional compost, manure and collected Fall leaves) this Fall, and then planting a cover crop (don’t want bare soil). I figure that doing this will mix up everything and increase the tilth. In the Spring, I would turn the cover crop under, possibly by double digging or with more plowing and tilling. And, then I will plant everything directly in the soil. No more raised beds (Yay!).