1. Memphis is not as hot as Death Valley in the summer -- umm, maybe most years but not this year. On numerous days this past week the hottest place in the United States was . . . not Death Valley . . . but SMYRNA, TENNESSEE (I know, that's not Memphis -- but it is Tennessee, and it's been and IS about as hot here!)
2. Memphis gets more rain than Death Valley. Nope, not this year (well, maybe it is more -- but we are waaaay below normal). We are more than 14 inches below normal rainfall right now. Except for one gullywasher in June we've had nary a rain drop. We did get a sprinkle last night for the first time in weeks, but not enough to even wet the ground under the trees.
3. We can grow better vegetable gardens in Memphis than in Death Valley. Or maybe we just THINK we can.
It is so dry here, so hot. Maybe relief will come in a few days. Maybe not. Everything is drying up. This, I tell people, is why the south was given over to large scale cotton and soybean farming, why vegetable farming did not thrive here, why everyone that could headed west to California and Oregon beginning with the Oregon Trail in the 1840's, in the aftermath of the Civil War, and during The Depression. Too hot. Too dry. Our mild winters, pleasant springs and autumns tantalize, but then comes the reality of July, August, September. And that reality began in mid June this year.
I spent Thursday morning erecting shade cloths over my vegetable garden, to hopefully protect them from the scalding solstice-high sun combined with triple digit temps. The leaves are literally burning, and the birds peck at the moisture contained in the vegetables.
The cloth is draped over arbors and tomato stakes, clipped with these handy clips I got at Dollar Tree.
I have one honest to goodness section of shade cloth and the rest is actually quilted row cover that protects against frost.
A disgarded Japanese paper umbrella helps also.
I also strung a trellis and planted rattlesnake pole beans under it. They only take 60 or so days to mature, and are real troopers in the heat once they get going. They can be eaten as green beans or as shell beans. I bought a handful at Hall's Feed Store (where I get my chicken feed). They sell seeds by the scoop or handful. I have some Kentucky Wonder Pole beans on another trellis, which have a lot of nice leaf growth but have not been very productive. A friend whose family has gardened here for generations recommended the rattlesnake beans.
Here is my other bean trellis -- over on the right side of the picture.
I am also trying a new tomato trellising system. I have the tomato cages, anchored with poles, and I simply laid bamboo poles across the rings of the tomato cages, creating a criss cross affair that can help support the tomatoes, as I have found cages and poles too wimpy to support the plants.
Last night our puny rain came in with some pretty gusty winds that blew my shade covers away from the supports.
We have more chances of possible rain and thunderstorms over the next few days so I though about just leaving it all to flap, but as the thermometer rose this morning to 98 degrees and the sun was full out, I ended up going out and fixing it all back up since it's a stronger chance of no rain.
Ophelia the Garden Cat was of no help at all.
So is Memphis better than Death Valley? Hard to say in July.
linking to Farmgirl Friday; Tuesday Garden Party