By Greg Ritchie
EAST TEXAS With temperatures pushing double digits almost every day and the heat index running even higher, Texas summers are never easy. But the dome of high pressure parked over most of the state has led to record temperatures and a lack of rainfall that has affected the grass in our yards to agricultural businesses in the area.
If your flowers and plants are wilting this year or your grass looks more like camouflage than Irish green, you’re not the only one suffering. While it’s always good to stay out of the sun, stay hydrated, and watch out for kids and pets, our friends of the plant kind have been suffering too. Even farmers and ranchers are worried about the lack of hay production leading to problems this winter.
Truman Lamb, the Anderson County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources says this summer looks more like the terrible summer we had all the way back in 2011.
“This week alone we had several days of 100 degrees, and a few days over 100, that makes for a bad time for all the things we grow,” Lamb said.
It’s not just our plants and vegetables in our own gardens that are suffering. Ross Pennington of Pennington Farms says it has been a shorter season due to the heat and and the drought conditions which has meant a shorter working season for many workers.
“I’ve had to let about 2/3 of the workforce go. The crop was good starting out, but then it just burnt out with no rain,” Pennington indicated. “We don’t have enough hay for our cows, and the grasshoppers are a big problem. They’re eating anything that can come up right now.”
Lamb agrees that the weather this summer is perfect for an infestation of grasshoppers.
“It’s important to do some scouting to see what the grasshopper population is like and try to control them with insecticides,” said Lamb.
So what is the die-hard gardener to do this year to keep everything healthy and growing? Lamb says – not a lot.
“Mulching can help a little bit, to retain moisture in the soil. It won’t help the direct heat hitting the plant, but it will cool the root system down a little, and of course watering but that’s basically it,” Lamb explained. “Try to keep those plants de-weeded, because weeds will rob a lot of moisture.”
Of course, the million-dollar question, which no crystal ball or farmer’s almanac can tell us with certainty, is when will this heat and drought end?
“It appears to me that we probably need a tropical depression or something like that to break this drought because it’s starting to get really bad in our area,” Lamb warned.
So, if you are frustrated this year with your plants, it’s not your lack of a green thumb to blame. Well, it could be, but the weather sure isn’t helping.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected].