The “dog days of summer” are defined as the hot, sultry period between early July and early September. In ancient Rome this period was associated with Sirius the Dog Star, which rose with the sun during those weeks, hence the source of the name “dog days.” Hot and sultry it has been too! Right now my summer garden is beginning to fade, stressed by heat and bugs. Even the plants that love the heat, like okra, tomatoes, and peppers to name a few, are heat stressed. My tomatoes stopped pollinating over 95 degrees - but the bugs love it! As the plants succumb to the heat stress, showing yellowed leaves, the bugs attack even more vigorously in a last attempt to fulfill their biological imperative – to leave another generation behind them before the dreaded frost arrives.
It’s a tough time for gardens but it’s a tough time for gardeners too. As gardeners we’re attuned to how our plants are faring, watering them solicitously during the hottest parts of the day, especially our potted plants which can fail quickly when pots dry out. (Our potted plants don’t have access so water reserves in the ground.) But if we gardeners are not careful, we’ll look as wilted as our plants! We have to be careful to hydrate ourselves as well as our plants. As a heat wave simmered across the Midwest last weekend, gardeners need to turn their attention from nurturing their plants to nurturing themselves!
Garden Smart and Safe During the Summer Heat, a great resource to consult
The Master Gardeners of Mecklenburg, North Carolina, have come to our aide by posting an excellent guide on how to take care of ourselves when temperatures soar. Garden Smart and Safe During the Summer Heat is a handy resource with informative tips for both gardeners and gardens. I’d like to thank Margaret Genkins, president of the Master Gardeners of Mecklenburg County, Cathe Hawley and all the other members that helped put this PDF together and shared it with us.
During the sultry weather I prefer to garden in the early evening, as the day begins to cool off a little and the shadows begin to lengthen. As the sun sets, the cicadas some out singing their song that falls and rises in a such loud crescendos. Then the lightening bugs come out and the tree frogs begin to chirp. So garden safe and smart and take time to sit with a cold drink and enjoy the dog days of summer.
Connie Schultz, Extension Master Gardener/Composter (Cornell, ’95) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC