By Glenn I. Teves, UH CTAHR County Extension Agent
We are in the midst of the Dog Days of summer, which runs July 3 to Aug. 11 and named after the star Sirius or the Dog in the constellation Orion. This is traditionally the hottest weather of the year, and I can’t argue that. Plants can sense subtle changes in day length and temperature in our changing seasons as the days get shorter, and the nights get longer. Long-day plants, such as corn and soybeans bask in the long hot days of summer, while others such as lettuce and kale prefer cooler days and nights.
The summer heat has been extreme and only the toughest will survive, such as sun-loving peppers, eggplant, and tomato as well as cucurbits like watermelon, bittermelon and squash. Certain beans such as long beans, cow peas, wing beans, limas, and even snap peas with thick edible pods, can survive and produce in these conditions. A few others can withstand the heat only in a modified environment such as under a shade screen or a tree canopy. One hit-and-run strategy is to grow baby or mini-vegetables by planting them thickly and harvesting in a month or so. Crops that fit this kind of growing environment include mustard mixes, lettuces, and Swiss chard or beets grown for leaves.
Sept. 21 is the Autumn Equinox when the day and night are the same length at 12 hours as the weather starts to cool down. One indicator of things to come is storms up north near the Aleutians and Japan that produce our large winter surf which can arrive as early as Labor Day weekend. Waves can subside for a month, then return with a roar a month later, or arrive and never leave until next spring.
Most of what you plant now will be ready to harvest about 50 to 75 days, around early October to early November. As we move from Thanksgiving into the Christmas holiday season, there’s a dramatic slowdown in plant growth with cool weather and overcast skies, so the key is getting in some good growth before this period arrives.
Autumn is the start of ideal back-to-back planting seasons all the way to late spring when most crops seem to thrive. One strategy is to grow both summer and winter crops starting now. The window is still open to sneak in another summer crop, and also get ready for that inevitable autumn and winter.
Good winter season crops include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, snow and snap peas, pole beans, lettuce, mustards, cabbages, and also the root crops such as carrots, radish, daikon, beets, and even rutabaga. The crucifers, also called mustards are one of the largest vegetable families, and also includes the Chinese and Japanese mustards which are too numerous to mention. September is also a good time to start short-day bulb onions such as Granex and Grano types and this planting window is open until next March. Get a jump on the season and plant more food!