Supposedly the dog days of summer come in August, but we have been hit with a period of intense heat and dryness. The droughtiness is good because it creates a hostile environment for fungal pathogens, which basically means it’s harder for diseases to establish on the plants and they stay healthier. The bad part about the drought is that the vegetables need water and so we are irrigating all the time to keep things alive and coming along. Vegetables love a sandy soil, they warm up easily and plants grow like mad in those types of soils, but they do not retain moisture well, which on a year like this one presents some problems. So we have to compensate by watering. Which is okay but it entails moving a lot of irrigation pipe (cost of manual labor) and using pumps (all kinds—little ones with 5 hp motors to big ones that require diesel tractors) to move water where needed. There is an additional cost of labor diversion, and by that I mean in a normal year the crew would be harvesting and weeding and pruning. This summer we are not getting much time to do that after harvest because we are moving irrigation pipe and trying to keep pumps running. So we have it in our power to make it rain, but it costs a lot of money and we never do as good or thorough a job as Mother Nature. On the other hand, the plants are not reeling from leaf blights, molds and fungi. So if it’s too wet, you get some problems; if it’s too dry, you get some problems.
What has made this batch of dryness doubly hard is the intense heat that has accompanied it. Not only do the plants suffer, it is tough on everybody in the field, greenhouses and farm stand. It’s enough of a chore just trying to stay hydrated, much less to work in 100-degree heat. I myself got a little woozy Saturday as I wasn’t paying attention to my hydration and I got a little cooked. Except for an annoyingly chipper young lady on the field crew who is from Georgia and loves the heat, the rest of us loathe the extreme temps of the last ten days. I try to remind myself how cold I was back in the winter, sitting on the skidsteer loader, pushing snow away from the greenhouses.