Hot enough for ya lately? According the KMASALEM10 weather station report (located on Essex Street near North Street) today’s high temperature was 89.7 degrees. The digital thermometer at our house registered a high of 93.2, but the overall message is that it was pretty darned hot today.
My butternut squash plants, with their huge tropical-sized leaves exposed to the full sun, wilt at the drop of a hat. But today, my strawberry plants were wilting. My tomato plants were wilting. The green beans were wilting. The potato plants have bit the dust (I hope they lasted long enough to grow some decent sized tubers.) Even the century old Norway Maple tree in our backyard looks a little droopy.
Man is it hot, and when was the last time that it rained?! Real rain, mind you. Not a 20 minute pour that penetrates less than a centimeter into the soil. Not a single drop for the past ten days according to KMASALEM10, and before that just 0.5 inches total between June 30th and July 4th. I hope all the gardeners in Salem are practicing deep watering procedures to encourage their plants to throw some seriously deep roots. Goodness knows the surface soil is so dry that it’s becoming water repellant, and me with just one rain barrel. Oh, the water bill is going to be high this summer.
And believe it or not, we’re one of the lucky states in the country right now. According to a Yahoo! Lookout article posted on July 12, 2012 (U.S. declares drought-stricken states largest natural disaster area ever, “The United States Department of Agriculture has declared natural disaster areas in more than 1,000 counties and 26 drought-stricken states, making it the largest natural disaster in America ever.” Check out the drought map above!
Holy you-know-what, right? Well, that’s what I thought at least.
Then yesterday, I was on the phone with my father who is currently visiting family in Northwest Iowa. My dad hails from a long line of corn and soybean farmers, and though he doesn’t live in Iowa anymore, he still owns a fair bit of farmland out there on which one of my many cousins grows (you guessed it) corn and soybeans. He and some of the family he was visiting are all sweating hard right now. Why? Well, it’s hotter than the sun out there too, but mostly they’re all sweating because this past week the corn in Iowa started throwing silk, and that means that corn will be pollinating over the next couple of weeks.
If you’ve been listening to the news, the midwest only just got out of a blistering heat wave. Lots of places set all time high temperature records--they saw temperatures that had literally never been seen before. Temp’s are back down into normal ranges right now, but everybody in that part of the country who makes a living farming corn is biting their nails. If temp’s climb back up into the nineties in the next two weeks even for a couple of days in a row, the crop yields for corn are going to get killed. They’ve had some rain, my dad told me, but that was a fair while back and he wouldn’t be surprised if the USDA has to add regions of Iowa to the drought map above in the next week.
So, in addition to the federal government making available emergency low-interest loans to farmers in over 1,000 counties spread over 26 states because of the drought conditions, the USDA also downgraded its crop outlook for corn, soy and wheat in a report released on July 11th. Just one month after predicting a record corn harvest, a report in Bloomberg states that the USDA cut its outlook for corn by twelve percent. The report goes on to state that corn and soybean conditions are worse than they’ve been for the past quarter century, and areas of moderate to extreme drought blanket 63 percent of the Midwest.
As far as heat waves and droughts go, Salem is lucky. We’re right on the ocean and the ocean helps to keep us cool and wet... usually.
Actually, we’re not doing too bad this summer as far as temperatures go. KMASALEM10 documented a total of 5 days last year with temperatures above 90 degrees and just one day with temperatures above 100 degrees (fahrenheit). This year, we’ve only had four days with temperatures above ninety degrees. Of course, last year all of those temperatures were documented in a single hot week at the end of July. This year, they seem to be coming in two to three day spreads and they started in June.
What will the rest of the summer look like for us? My guess is hot, dry, and expensive. I’ll be on the hunt for more water barrels in the hopes of catching a bit more of the rain when it does fall, thereby trimming down on my water bill as I fight to keep my garden from frying. And as the cost of our nation’s three biggest food crops (corn, soy, and wheat) continue to rise to all time highs due to the drought that is baking 66% of our country (Grains, Soybeans Extend Rally, Bloomberg), may all those in Salem with a vegetable garden do what you can to keep your veggies growing and encourage others to consider investing in a bit of food security by growing and/or buying locally grown produce. Never shopped at the Salem Farmer's Market on Thursday afternoons in Derby Square? Might want to think about starting.
Who knows, as we all feeling the realities of climate change in this country, maybe the Victory Gardens of the 30’s and 40’s will make a comeback.