Blowin’ in the hot wind

“A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.” – Margaret Atwood, “The Blind Assassin,” 2000

I love the way Atwood’s use of figurative language sounds on my tongue when I read it aloud, and the images it conjures up in my mind. On the other hand, I loathe the images of what a hot wind can, and has, done to some of my garden plants.

In Sunday’s column (June 25, 2017), I wrote about the villainous hot summer winds in the microclimate of my back yard in old East Medford, OR. The southwest-facing garden beds receive a lot of late afternoon sun when temperatures are at their highest and air turbulence kicks up gusts of winds that can reach up to 30+ mph. The wind hastens evaporation of water from plant foliage, and plants become heat stressed when the roots can’t keep up with the moisture loss by absorbing water and nutrients from the soil.

The Japanese maples in my backyard suffer the most. Their native land is much more humid in summertime than the Rogue Valley, so I’ve learned to protect them during the hottest days when temperatures soar into the lower 100s (Medford had 11 of those days in 2016).

I provide extra water to my maples, and many of my other plants unless they are specifically referred to as “drought tolerant.” If I’ve planted something new this year, I’ll provide extra water even if it’s supposed to be a drought-tolerate plant. I try to water in the morning so the water has had time to drain to the roots by the time the hottest temperatures of the day, and the hot wind, blows in. I set up an umbrella near my exposed maple to shield it from the late afternoon sun (and it also shades my favorite garden seat!).

Tomatoes and squash don’t like extremely hot temperatures, either, so I cover them with row cover loose enough for air to circulate underneath. It’s not pretty, but it works!

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  • About the Author

    Rhonda Nowak

    Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, writer and teacher. With more than 25 years of gardening experience and a Ph.D. in literature and language arts education, she combines a love for plants, poetry, and prose in her Literary Gardener blog. ... Full Profile
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