Summer Vegetables and Heat

— Written By and last updated by Elisabeth Purser
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The temperature has cooled somewhat, but we a have experienced the extreme heat of summer in the past few weeks. 

This time of year I usually receive calls from folks asking why their vegetables are not producing. Of course it could be a lack of pollinators, but problems with vegetable fruit set and production can also be a problem when we have very high temperatures. Day temperatures over 90° and night temperatures over 70° reduce the fruit set in tomatoes and other vegetables. Flower and fruit abortion are common responses to heat stress as a result of the general failure of successful pollination. The reproductive structures can become unreceptive, pollen can be killed, and the pollen tube may fail to form resulting in no fertilization and no development of fruit.

Beans may drop their flowers due to heat and lack of pollination. Many people are concerned most about their tomatoes and cucumbers. Usually cucumbers are a little more heat tolerant than tomatoes. Squash and zucchini can have lots of flowers, but produce no fruit. This can be due to a lack of female flowers. As the heat increases, the ratio of male to female flowers changes to more male flowers. When cooler weather returns, the plants will shift back to a more normal ratio and production should resume.

During times with high temperatures, make sure that garden soils are irrigated enough so the soil is wet to a depth of 6-8 inches. Use a long-handled screwdriver to poke into the soil. Once the screwdriver becomes hard to push, pull it out and you can see how deep the soil is wet. Irrigate and test the soil until you reach that 6-8” depth. With experience you will learn how long it takes to wet your soil to 6-8”, after the top of the soil begins to dry out. 

If you have questions about problems with vegetables or other plants give Debbie Dillion a call at 704-283-3729.