Sunday, July 31, 2011

How I Beat the Heat

Early morning haze over the cornfield and vegetable garden.
July has been unbelievably hot and humid here this year -- frequently the heat index reached 104F / 40C or higher.  Under these conditions garden chores become a very real challenge, so on the worst days I keep them down to just three tasks: 1) irrigate, 2) pick vegetables, and 3) any necessary deadheading. I leave more strenuous jobs for those rare days when we get a little relief from this awful weather. I have found only one way to beat the heat and that is to get outside really early in the morning. I like to get up just as the sun is rising at 6 a.m. With coffee mug in hand, I take my morning walk around my gardens before starting my work there. The air is fresh at this time and I feel I can actually breathe. It is also incredibly peaceful, with just birds singing and the bullfrog croaking.

I'm glad to see the corn seems to be thriving in the lower field. This is not the case on other farms nearby due to the long, wet spring followed by almost-drought conditions. The local newspaper warns of rising meat prices as farmers will not be harvesting the normal amount of feed corn for their animals. Hopefully, the farmer who leases our fields will have better luck.

Beebalm and feed corn
My first task is to inspect the vegetable garden, and so far all is good. Look at the pumpkin in the bottom-left picture below -- this is a 'volunteer' growing out of the compost bin.

Clockwise: pepper, zucchini, cucumbers, nasturtiums and pumpkin.
I used up all the rainwater from my four water barrels before the middle of the month, so until this week, I had to drag the hose around to water everything. I try to get the nozzle as close to the roots as possible and give everything a good soak without wetting the leaves -- there is no powdery mildew, so far. A good storm a couple of days ago filled up the water barrels again, making watering more sustainable. While the water barrels have water, H.H. fills buckets and watercans each evening and places them around the gardens to save me some time the next morning.

I inspect each plant's leaves as I work, looking for potential problems. This morning I picked squash-beetle eggs off the zucchini plants.

The beets are looking healthy.
With the watering of the kitchen garden completed, I pick those vegetables that are ready to be harvested. The bush beans have been especially prolific, so I hope to freeze some later today.

When I have finished working in the vegetable garden, it is time to water my potted plants. I have a lot of them and should write a separate posting about them soon.

White caladium and impatiens in the stone garden.

White Caladium Caladium x hortulanum

A planter with canna lily (Canna 'tropical salmon') fills a gap in the perennial border.
During that cold, wet spring that seems a million years ago, I planted Johnny-jump-ups and pansies in my five window boxes. They are cool-weather plants, so my plan was to switch them for something hardier when the weather became hot. But the little Johnny-jump-ups refuse to wilt or die. They are surviving the heat much better than I am and require little watering ...

Viola spp.
My favorite planter, a cone-shaped hanging basket, was a Mothers' Day present from my daughter last year. I filled it with geraniums and lantana, choosing peachy colors to compliment the turks' cap lilies nearby.

The Turk's cap lilies float above the picket fence, and when cars go past they nod a greeting to the drivers.

I don't water the perennials by hand. Each flowerbed has a soaker-hose buried under mulch ready to deliver water to the roots of the flowers when needed. I only connect the soaker hose to the water supply when I can see the perennials obviously wilting.

Turk's Cap Lily Lilium Superbum
When I have finished watering, my next task is deadheading. I always remove spent roses....

... and the dead flower-heads of the daylilies.

My favorite daylily Hemerocallis 'Chicago Apache'
There are many perennials that I don't ever deadhead. For example, the purple cone flower provides seeds for the birds. Goldfinches especially love them.

Another early morning job is to take photographs. I was fortunate this morning to capture a picture of the biggest frog that inhabits the pond. The waterlily unfurled its petals -- I was told the waterlily opens at 9:00 am and closes at 3:00 pm every day and the Egyptians told the time by them, but I have been unable to verify this interesting story.

As the sun gets higher, and the day warms up, the dragonflies appear and flit back-and-forth across the pond. This one settled on the Russian sage long enough for me to snap a picture.

I am so glad to see the summer butterflies returning to my garden. My three butterfly bushes are living up to their name and attracting them.

Butterfly bush Buddleia 'Royal Red'
Monarch butterfly
Buckeye butterfly
Each morning I check the milkweed plants to see if the monarchs have laid their eggs there yet. It's a bit early for that, so I need to be patient.
Milkweed Asclepias incarnata 'Rose'
As the morning becomes hotter and more humid, I like to take a walk in the woodland garden, where it is several degrees cooler under the trees. On my way there, I see the red honeysuckle is blooming again. I recently wrote an article about it for Click here if you would like to read it.

Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervivens
In the shade garden my favorite hosta is blooming. I did not plant hostas in the woodland garden because the deer are prevalent there. When I planted hellebores, ferns and mountain laurel, all were decimated by the deer.

Hosta spp.
The top left-hand picture in the collage below is one of my andromedas, a shrub the deer don't even nibble.
Each path through the woodland garden is named for a grandchild and marked with a knight in armor.
I hear something rustling. A deer (one of the aforementioned culprits) watches me through the trees ...

... as he leaves, I see he is a young buck with eight points.

I leave the woodland garden and go to the barn to feed Dude and Billy. They always wait patiently until after I have finished my garden tasks. Of course, I give them a treat when I first go outside each morning and this tides them over.

On the pasture fence a very young barn swallow tries to pluck up courage to fly.

Inside the barn, two of his siblings are sitting on the stall divider. I couldn't capture accurate colors in the dark barn, but if you look closely at the cutie on the left, you will see he still has baby fluff around his head.

My tasks completed, I head indoors. I am sweating already and it is only 9:15 am. Today is Sunday and I need to get ready for church. I have much to give thanks for.

I take a final look around my garden on this last morning of July ...

... maybe the weather in August wont be so bad!

How do you beat the heat?

Your friend in gardening,
Pamela x

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Pam, I so enjoy reading your blog and can commiserate with you as far as the heat and humidity go. I too, try to get out early to water and deadhead. My zinneas love this heat and are looking so beautiful. I love the animals that visit your garden. Your photos are inspiring to any amateur photographer. I am looking forward to your next posting. Keep them coming. Pat

  2. What a wonderful post! I am so glad that your gardens/crops are surviving. Thank you for sharing these fantastic pictures.

    Have a lovely week ~ FlowerLady

  3. Hi Pam,

    I hope it cools down for you soon, I think in those temperatures it's just easiest to leave things be... Although I do like it to be warm I hate it to be so hot that I can't even go outside and enjoy it!

  4. Early in the morning is my favorite time to be out in the garden too!
    You have taken some fabulous photos and those young swallows are just precious!

  5. How do I beat the heat? I stay inside! :) Otherwise, I'm hot and sweating, no matter how early! Your garden looks lovely regardless of the heat. If I didn't know how hot it was, I could be fooled into thinking it's a nice day. Loved the pic of the dragonfly, and the two little birds are adorable! Loved walking around with you, now go inside and get some tea!

  6. Pam,

    It has been quite hot on the west side of PA also! But we have gotten a reprieve this week. Back to the 80's.

    I like to start the morning in the garden also, when I am able, because it is so much cooler then. Wonderful to be out in it before the heat of the day. I will think of you when I am out moving around my cannas in the morning :)

    You have so much blooming at this down-time in the season. I love the turk's caps... and that you have soaker hoses for your beds. That is a worthwhile investment.

    Thanks for sharing your beauty!

  7. We too try and beat the heat with early morning (5:30 a.m.) gardenwalks. So glad to read that your veggies are doing well, your flowers are so beautiful, even in the heat.

  8. Pam, things look so wonderful, even with that crazy humidity!

    Your photo of the monarch butterfly is so lovely. We had a family wedding on Wednesday and everyone released a 'painted lady' - it was lovely. They looked somewhat like small monarchs.

    Have a lovely day,

  9. Wow Pam, your garden is looking absolutely stunning. Its very obvious that an insane amount of work and love goes into your garden. Beautiful!

  10. The last morning of your July photos were absolutely beautiful! I wish to relish in such beauty one day.

    I got off to a bad start because of this years odd weather. The only flowers that are keeping me smiling are my Black-Eyed Susan's.

    Lovely post Pam..Thank you for sharing.

  11. Dear Pam - I think I'd dangle my feet in the pond though fish might nibble my toes. Your early morning irrigation is doing the trick and what a lovely sight for you to start each day. So many beatufiful flowers thriving but especially love the bee balm and milkweed along with all the wildlife. We are only just hitting the 80s here so I beat the heat by sitting in the shade and doing nothing until a watering late evening.

  12. What a delightful meandering through your garden! I enjoyed seeing many of your garden corners, wildlife visitors, and blooming plants. I still have water left in my rainbarrels, but usually at this time of year I do not. So, I must be grateful for that.

  13. Pam, I admire your fortitude; I am so bad at dealing with heat! I have to come back to PA for the beginning of school in a couple of weeks,and I am dreading the heat. I'm going to try to bring some of the cool Maine air back with me. -Jean

  14. I think early morning is definitely the time to enjoy the gardens in summer, even on a cool day. I LOVE the hanging planter, the one your daughter gave you. How extraordinary it is with that cone shape which must also help with roots and water. And the ornate hanger for it is perfect.

  15. I enjoyed this post so much! It was fun imagining you going about your morning routine - and it sounds like such a wonderful way to start the day! I go out to the garden each morning but only have time to do a little watering as I have to be at work by 8:30. My Johnny Jump Ups are also still blooming - hard to believe!

  16. Heat! Whats that? It has been a cold, grey Summer here in Ireland. I'd love some heat. Maybe not as hot as there though. Your garden looks great.

  17. Pam ~ there'a just no beating the heat here in South Texas, should be 104 tomorrow. There will be no relief until October! Just love seeing all the pretties at your place! Love the blog! Carol

  18. Greetings Pam, from a real English garden (Bronte country in Yorkshire) where we aren't trying to beat the heat so much as dodge raindrops! Heavy summer showers here and no chance for any gardening at the moment, so that gives me a good excuse to wander around other people's online! Thanks for sharing your fascinating garden...
    I'll be back! Jane Gray

  19. Hello Pamela, what a lovely post, I felt as if I were strolling the gardens with you! Having the garden knights named for your grandchildren is so special, they must love it. The deer eating your plants is not far, they steer clear of our yard, but I don't know why. Maybe it's the corn and alfalfa fields, or my terrifying Shih Tzu's?

    The barn swallows are so sweet, they are my favorite of all the birds, their swooping flight is so acrobatic.

    I hope the weather eases up some for you, we're finally a little cooler and it's a blessing, but we've had ample rain which makes things much easier.

    Always a treat to visit your lovely blog!

  20. Wow, can't believe the crops you have...lots of goodies.
    Loving the pictures of your garden with that English style that I believe you captured.

    Took another garden tour but no so impressed might not post.

  21. Hi Pam, what a wonderful blog post. I really enjoyed the tour through your garden, which seems to be holding up very well to the heat. I love the way you have named the different gardens on your property and how each has it's own distinct style. Loved the barn swallows -- the one with the baby fuzz reminded me of the wren family we hosted earlier this year.

  22. I love how you named a garden for each grandchild and also have knights incorporated into your design. Well, despite the heat, your garden is flourishing and it looks like you have many visitors!
    I beat the heat by getting up EARLY and getting watering and weeding done. Then it's siesta in the afternoon, games with the kiddos and inside stuff.

  23. What a lovely tour. Your garden is absolutely bursting with so much food and flowers. We haven't had to deal with a heat wave here this summer but mornings and evenings are still the best time to work I think. Less likely to get sunburnt at that time.

  24. Hi Pam, we've finally gotten a little break in the heat so I'm hoping you have, too. It's been quite a summer. My garden doesn't look nice at all these days but despite the heat, yours seemed to hold up exceptionally well. All of your flowers look marvelous and your field of corn, magnificent. I hope you get a good harvest! I enjoyed going along on your daily walk and seeing a bit of your world--you have so much going on there! Your pond looks so nice--I bet you have really enjoyed it. What a beautiful home/garden/farm you have. I'll bet it is just awesome in person. One day I would really love to visit...what a treat that would be. It would have been a dream to live in the country, when I was younger--but that probably won't happen at this point. I do remember the beauty of your area of PA and despite the heat, it is a special place indeed.