The Norman Transcript

July 12, 2013

Crops need shade because of warm spring


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Special Notice: Charlene Perry, a longtime participant in the Norman Farm Market, informed me that visitors will be given ice-cold slices of watermelon Saturday. Also, I believe some other vendors are offering samplings of their products.

What a treat. The weather this past week has been deliciously cooler than expected for the first week of July and is forecasted to continue cooler than normal throughout the week, with possible episodes of scattered rain — which didn’t happen. Most Independence Day celebrations, the weather is hot as a firecracker.

Did you happen to see the spectacular large, orange moon surrounded by a dark blue sky a couple of weeks ago? Lightning bugs seemed to be trying to outshine that moon last week.

In my backyard, fireflies by the hundreds were signaling to one another that they would be receptive to company by the opposite sex; however, some female lightning bugs are cannibals and when the male lands, she eats him. There are hundreds of species of fireflies, and I’m not sure that we have the cannibalistic species in central Oklahoma, but cannibalism by female fireflies has been proven by scientists.

Because of the hot, dry spring, it has been difficult to keep our crops thriving without special shades and lots of watering. I was lucky to have red-leaf lettuce February through April because I planted them in a specially prepared, small plot that was shaded to the north by my pottery shed.

Of course, the lettuce has bolted now and I’m hoping that the resulting seed will sow a volunteer crop for late fall. I’ll be planting more as insurance.

Even with the temperature in the upper 90s, shortly after dark, it is pleasant to go outside to listen to the night sounds of spiders, crickets and other creatures that creep about in the dark.

If you transplanted your tomato plants late, as I did, we might give up on gathering many vine-ripe tomatoes until September. In the meantime, it is necessary to keep the vines healthy until nighttime temperatures range between 75 and 80, otherwise the blooms will not set fruit.

Example: I have six very healthy tomato vines, but only one plant has a couple of small tomatoes. However, I hope for a good late fall crop.

Late August is a good time to plant legumes such as black-eyed peas, field peas and Crowder peas to enrich any vacant areas of the garden, or yard, for that matter.

You may need to water them for them to sprout because the soil is so dry; then lay multiple layers of wet newspaper on the crop weighted down in strategic places with rocks to keep them in place. Water the newspapers as soon as they become dry.

Even better, place dry leaves on top of the wet newsprint and then water again. The beans/peas will come up in just a few days, so check each day for sprouts, then remove newspaper and keep the plot moist but not soaking until beans have established roots and are growing.

Despite these extreme hot and dry days, I’m preparing ground for planting the fall and winter garden, although I won’t be planting mustard, turnips and lettuce until the temperature moderates — that’s just common sense, unless you want to go to extravagant lengths to build shades with drip irrigation that will shield some of the fierce heat and moisture-sucking rays of the afternoon sun.

Heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers, squash and hundreds of other vegetables are making a national comeback, said Ronnie Cummings, director of the Organic Consumers Association. The National Heirloom Exposition was conceived to create awareness on issues surrounding “pure food.”

The exposition chose Sonoma County, Calif., with its deep roots in agriculture and overall passion there for good food.

There were multiple components to the 2012 exposition, including 100 educational speakers presenting concurrently from three speaking locations; several thousand varieties of produce on display to showcase the diversity our country has to offer; more than 300 like-minded vendor booths showcasing multiple food-, farm- and garden-related movies, heritage breeds of poultry and livestock; and much, much more. Wish I could be there.

Betty Culpepper

may be reached at

bculpepper3@cox.net for comments, questions or ideas for future columns.