Heat wave, what heat wave?


Guest Rant by Lajos Szabo, London-based seed-seller, blogger and allotment gardener

While one heat wave hits the USA after the other, here in the UK (you know that small place somewhere in Europe) the summer is a complete washout. We had the wettest June on record and looks like that July will be the same. And with rain comes cold weather too. While you guys are enjoying high summer temperatures we celebrate if it’s in the 70s.  I read in the news the other day that a Chinese athlete moved out of the Olympic village to Germany as he found it too cold here to train.

Okay so you might not be enjoying it anymore but for us here, it sounds unbelievable and I have to say I would rather garden in heat than in wet and cold. It might be the case of the ‘neighbour’s garden is always greener’ but believe me, it’s more than challenging to grow anything this year. In a normal year we can grow the warmth-loving tomatoes outside with no problem, but this year the poor plants suffer a lot and I don’t think that anyone will have much of a crop. Normally temperatures are well into the 70s, which is ideal to grow literally every vegetable and flower outside, but not this year.

With rainy weather come slugs and snails and if you had any experience with the damage they can cause, then just multiply that by about 20 and there you have it, the British slug and snail damage in the garden in 2012. Whatever barrier one puts around the plants doesn’t help; the pouring rain comes overnight and washes the protection away and 24 hours later the little creatures have nibbled everything.

So I would rather sweat and water with watering cans if I have to. At least all your gardens are thriving if you water, I believe – or are all your plants burnt? It is pretty hard to imagine how you manage you gardens in that heat, as we never ever have temperatures like you’re experiencing. In the heat of 2006 it was in the 90s but I don’t think it’s ever reached the 100 mark. I wonder sometimes that these extreme weather conditions are the signs of climate change?

I suppose wherever you are in the world you just have to adapt to the changing climate. We do that by growing fast-growing vegetables, and protecting our plants by growing them in greenhouses and poly tunnels; but I wonder what you guys can do to protect your plants from the heat?


  1. The heat has been nearly unbearable. I’m in Virginia and we’ve had several weeks of high 90’s and up to 105-degree weather. I have little kids so whenever it’s over 85 it’s hard to take them outside with me to do gardening. I’ve adapted by adding extra inches of mulch, watering early early in the morning when they’re still sleeping, and sometimes going out after dark to weed by flashlight. Sounds nuts but then I don’t get overwhelmed by the temperatures. Oh, and the days that the kids play in the wading pool the water all goes on the garden! I had terrible bitter lettuce and my broccoli all bolted early but the heat-loving peppers, tomatoes, squashes and melons are doing fantastic as long as I keep up with the watering.

  2. Preach it! I’m in Paris and this week has been the first taste of summer all year, but I see rain scheduled for the weekend. I’ve been waiting for my balcony tomatoes to turn color and they’re just starting now that I’ll be going on vacay next Monday. Oh well, at least I’ve had nice fresh salads for months.

  3. We’ve had the same heat wave/drought in Southern Ontario this year – Toronto temps regularly in the mid 30’s celsius (humidex in the 40’s – above 100 Fahrenheit). My tomatoes have loved it – been munching on cherry tomatoes for a week now – but Brussels Sprouts look plain weird and deformed and the fennell has been bolting. In the country it’s much worse – much drier – with “drought tolerant native” perennials becoming crispy and shrubs shrinking day by day. On the good news front it actually rained across the region overnight with more expected today and tomorrow.

    Isn’t one of the joys of gardening being able to talk about the weather and not having it considered idle chatter?

  4. Ah yes, the grass is always greener. I’m not sure if I would trade situations, but I can say that it is probably easier to cope with drought and heat than cold and rain. It may be a pain, but lugging hoses and watering cans is worth it for all the heat loving melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. I’m not sure what I’d do without them. Here in North Dakota we’re having WAY more heat than normal and I’ve had to let the lawn go to it’s toasty, crispy, crunchy state and a few perennials are suffering, but for the most part we’ll get by.

    Hopefully you guys get some late summer sunshine and better weather and can salvage the growing season!

  5. Ah yes, nothing like missing a day of watering and having a plant wilt, die and dry up, or just drop all of its existing leaves. I’d rather be growing cool-weather greens than pulling brown “heat-loving” plants out of the ground I think. Although slug damage… tough choice. Did I mention the water bill? (St. Louis., MO)

  6. That slug looks exactly like the Spanish Slug invasion in all of Scandinavia and other places in northern and central Europe. They were kept in check in their native environment by the dry heat, but up here where it’s coller and practically rains all the time they’ve exploded. I’ll finish my article on them tonight for sure. This year has been horrible.

    I brough back a Beavertail cactus pad from Tenerife in February of this year to plant in a pot and watch it grow. I put the cactus outside this early summer and it took off. The slugs came a ate holes in it spines and all. Unbelievable.

  7. The picture of the slug is apropos for the Pacific Northwest – it is foggy, once again and 54 F outside at 10:00 AM. I have heard it is summer elsewhere but it seems to have bypassed here – again.

    • I’m in central CA. After 20 years in CA, and the slugs with handles that some crazy gormand thought would be a good idea, I would gladly return to the land of green tomatoes. My snails seem to relish out 101 degree days. by the way when we lived in WA, I ringed my vegetable garden with nastursums. In two years it was slug free.

    • Exactly. I’m on the Washington coast, and I think we may have had two days in the 80s, but I’m not sure it has actually topped mid-70s all summer.

  8. I would love a bit of cool. We have had over 100 degree actual temps for at least 3 weeks this summer and many more days of 100+ heat index days. Only 1.5 inches TOTAL from May-today. My garden is struggling. I water but don’t want a $300 water bill. Our area of Illinois is considered extreme drought. Corn isn’t producing at all and is dead in the fields. It’s so dry we dug 2 ft. down for a new clothesline (ah, fresh clothes from the line) and it was just powdery dirt. So, please, let’s weather swap a bit so you can dry out and we can end a drought.

  9. Too hot for the tomatoes to even blossom here, with weeks and weeks of 90+ temps… It’s not good! I would like to trade weather for a while. How fantastic would that be?

  10. Ah yes, the grass is always greener on the other side! Like Linda said above, here in Seattle it has been a really cold season, but it has dried out in the last month. We all face our gardening and weather challenges. Personally, I would much rather throw on a sweater and frown at my tomatoes than be confided to air conditioning for the entire summer. I have decided to plant another set of cold-weather crops like beets and spinach, and they are as happy as can be!

  11. This year’s heat and drought that everyone in the US is complaining about is almost standard for where I live (Central Texas). While a large portion of the US experiences it for one summer. We have it every summer. When there is no moisture in the soil and you water, it all wicks away quickly. The ground cracks. My house siding cracked. People’s foundations cracked.

    Even drought tolerant plants need water once in a while. Last year, our water use was severely restricted, and neighbors were encouraged to snitch on neighbors for breaking watering rules. We also lost thousands of trees.

    Last summer my entire life revolved around watering by hand. There was no time for a social life.

    Hey Lajos, let’s switch one of these summers? I’ll go to England and you come to Texas. How about it?

  12. I’m definitely in a grass is greener state of mind today (it’s 9 PM and still 90 degrees in my neighborhood, just outside Washington, DC) so gardening on a cool rainy day sounds like heaven.

    [Is that slug snacking on a basil plant? My garden basil plants look exactly like that but the ones in pots on my deck are hole-free. That would be consistent with slug damage I believe–the ones in the ground get eaten but not the ones on a deck.]

  13. Here in central Indiana, we have Extreme Drought conditions. I think the last decent rain on my garden was May 1st. We also had a mild winter, which means less snow and that contributes to the water deficit. There is a watering ban for lawns, and you are supposed to only hand water flower beds, vegetable gardens and any trees or shrubs less than five years old. You need a plan for watering because it takes a long time to hand water a garden of any size.

    The heat has been mostly unbearable, though for the hottest week in early July, I was actually out of town where temps were only in the low 90’s. Lucky me. However, there is heat damage on some smaller needle spruces, like Alberta spruce, and other plants as well.

    The latest long range forecasts calls for the drought to continue into October. Some farmers have begun to bush hog their corn fields because there isn’t going to be anything to harvest, anyway.

    On the bright side, this drought has shown us which plants are really drought tolerant and which plants are pretenders. Plus believe it or not, it’s too hot for many of the weeds to grow, so there is less to weed.

    I’ll take a rainy summer any year over this extreme drought.

  14. Yup, they burn. I’ve lost a couple of new shrubs already, two tomatoes, and don’t even talk to me about the daikons.

    We did get some really heavy rain at last this week (thank goodness) so I can’t complain compared to other parts of the country.

    My thought is that I can manage the occasional year like this, but if this is the “new normal” then we’re boned.

  15. While it’s (relatively) easy to deal with drought and heat in a back yard garden (or front yard as in my case) via careful watering (even when restricted as noted above by my fellow midwesterner in Indiana), the drought that is decimating crops across the country is not a good thing. It goes way beyond “a little heat for the tomatoes” and we will be suffering the economic consequences for more than one year. People who have already been dealing with food insecurity due to the wrecked economy will be pushed even further down that scale.

    I have friends in Seattle who envy my tomatoes, but everyone needs the staple crops for food. And while there are crops that will grow in the cooler wetter temps – greens, greens, greens anyone? – there isn’t much that will survive in the kind of dry heat many of us are getting nowadays.

    I understand craving the things one cannot grow well. That’s a staple of gardening. But I think it behooves us to also consider the bigger picture, the consequences of extended drought are quite serious.

    • I am worried about the long-range impact of this drought. One of the major downfalls about not having a lot of local farms anymore is that there is a huge monoculture in many areas of the country.

  16. Last summer was cool and wet. I loved it. This summer is hot hot hot and dry dry dry. Only rain has been in the form of severe damaging thunder storms. Hellaciously high humidity. Which just kicks those hot flashes up several notches. Give me cool and wet.

  17. Laure that would be great; although sounds like it is harder than I thought to cope with the heat wave. Finally we had few days of sunshine so the plants in the greenhouse growing nicely, but I lost everything outside to slugs and all sort of fungal diseases as the wet and cool perfect for them.
    Pam those are potatoes; the slugs normally don’t touch them at all but this year they just eaten everything.

  18. Pedinska is right on the mark. I think s/he said all the important things.

    However, I wanted to add that the slugs are having a banner year. I thought the heat and dry would have killed them. Instead, it seems to be driving them to chew on all my plants more than normal in order to get that water they need.

    Heat and slugs?! The end is nigh (at least for the hostas).

  19. No, no, the grass is not greener… it’s brown… and dead… like literally dead. It’s been so hot that without supplemental water the soil in parts of our lawn is drying up, caking, and blowing away. I’d rather be in Britain, all that rain is a God send and don’t take it for granted! It’s so hot here that you can’t even go outside to hand water your plants without risk of heatstroke. And don’t even start talking about the water wasted to keep perennial and annual plants “alive” (limping forward…) and the depletion of our aquifer reserves. To top it all off, you need to hand water mature shade trees here too in order to prevent /them/ from dying. Be happy with all your rain… or ship it over here to me.

  20. We gardeners are never satisfied – there’s always too much or too little of whatever, but the weather extremes around the globe this year do not make me happy. In the garden or out.

  21. I suppose you could say that sunny weather beats soggy every time, but my garden has been brutalized by wind, erratic thunderstorms and heatwaves all summer – and I’m in one of the least tortured areas of the U.S. Hoping for better luck with a fall harvest.

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