Tomato

Many gardeners in the Pikes Peak area have been complaining of undersized tomato plants, underperforming basil, wimpy peppers, etc. As usual, weather challenges us when we garden here, and this year, we have a rather unusual combination – chilly temperatures and (at times) over-abundant moisture. The last few summers have been warmer than average, so we’ve been caught off guard by conditions that are pretty comfortable for the gardener, but not so much for the warm-season vegetables and herbs!

A fellow Colorado gardener that I know of who gardens (with wild success) above 8000 ft always says “A tomato never wants to go below fifty degrees in its life – maybe even sixty!” (She, of course, uses cold frames, hoop houses, green houses, etc for all her gardening. To learn more about her garden, visit her web site here: www.pennandcordsgarden.com.) I suspect that the minimum-temperature rule for peppers is even ten degrees warmer than for tomatoes.

So, what’s the big deal? We’ve been over sixty degrees since the middle of June, right? Well, we have been for day time highs. But you have to also consider night-time temperatures. Even at the lower altitudes, night-time temperatures in our region dipped below fifty degrees several times in the past few weeks. This has helped keep our houses cooler, but it has definitely affected those hot-weather loving plants like peppers, tomatoes, and basil.  

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A couple of weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the 2012 Peak to Prairie Landscape Symposium (“So You Think You Want to Convert Your Kentucky Bluegrass Lawn?”). I started off with a discussion of the precipitation and water situation in our area. People were especially interested in my chart with the precipitation for the Apr – Oct growing season (for lawns anyway) for each year over the past twenty years. I was hoping to send people home with the idea that we certainly cannot expect our “average” annual precipitation (approx 16″ with 12″ coming from rain) each year and that they needed to be more active in deciding how and when to water their yards and gardens. And of course, I wanted to nudge them to consider lower water using lawn options.

Precipitation is of HUGE interest to gardeners, and the following chart illustrates the challenge we are up against in our area. (more…)