Climate change & gardening

Our planet is slowly, or not so slowly, heating up.  That is simply a fact.  When I was a kid living here in north Mississippi 60+ years ago, we lived on a lake and owned ice skates.  Almost every year, that large lake froze over so that we could skate & camp out on the ice.  I even remember someone driving a VW Beetle out on the ice.  I can’t even remember last time even a small pond froze over even a tiny bit… much less freezing over enough to walk on it.

This year has been especially hot here and we are not yet into the hottest part of the year.  Already we have had more days with the temp at 100 or above than I can ever remember.  Most days have a feel like temp of around 110 or so.  Our normal high for July is 92 and normally we rarely see a triple digit high.  They have now become the norm.  Here is our 7 day forecast.  I’ve never seen such a forecast in July… especially considering we have been at or near those temps for weeks.

7 day

All this high heat has had a huge impact on crop growing around here.  Our spring was so short, none of my springtime, cool weather crops produced anything.  It got too warm too quick.  So I trashed them & put in my summer crops and this has been the worst my garden has produced ever.  I couldn’t get my tomatoes to grow.  My peppers, which I though loved warm weather, are doing fine but not producing any peppers yet.  My corn crop was the smallest & worst looking ever.  My pole beans have grown wonderfully & have bloomed heavily, but are not setting any beans.  I talked to the folks at the local farmer’s market & they said this is the worst year they have ever had.  They are having the same issues.

I know that many plants will not pollinate properly when temps get up near 100.  I knew corn was that way & weeks ago I worried about my corn.  I water it weekly & the plants looked great, but when picked, there were much fewer ears & those ears were smaller & ugly.  Many ears didn’t fill out at all.  Others filled just partially.  I now know peppers & beans, at least the varieties I’ve always grown are the same.

As a prepper, this greatly concerns me.  With such temps, I would not be able to grow enough food to be anywhere near self sufficient.  I need to research to see if I can find varieties that can grow properly in such high temps.  I mean heck, the crops I currently grow are varieties picked to handle normal temps & humidity of the deep south, but they obviously aren’t proper for such temps.  Since I think our planet will continue to heat up, I will need to rethink my whole plan.

My only hope is that I expect to have a very long fall, and I hope to replant soon and see if I can get some corn & beans to grow later in the year.  I expect my peppers will put out huge crops once the temps moderate in a month or so.  Around here our winters have gotten warmer & shorter.  Spring is exactly the same.  Our summers are very long now, longer than normal & our Autumns are likewise.  Hopefully the first frosts will hold off for me to grow some food.

Anyone else having heat related issues in their gardens?


  • Comments (32)

    • 5

      Redneck, I’m sorry that the heat is taking such a toll on your garden. The heat wave seems relentless. This is the first year I’ve planted a small garden, so I don’t have a basis for comparison. I’ve had a few snow pea pods in the past week, but everything else (tomatoes, peppers, carrots) isn’t ready yet. I did sign up through the university extension’s horticulture department to take a three-month online basic gardening class starting in September. I’ll be interested to hear if they address climate change and how to adapt the garden. 

    • 4

      Sorry to hear that you lost a lot of your garden and the other half is struggling. I’ve been fighting with chipmunks in mine…

      What do you think about installing some kind of temporary shade that could be put up over the plants during the hottest part of the day. Maybe it could be a screen that lets in 70% of heat and light but that 30% protection will keep them from suffering. That’s the issue right? Heat and direct sunlight rather than ambient air temperature?

      When it gets warmer we have to water our garden more frequently to keep the soil from drying out too much. The plants love and drink up a lot when it’s hot.

      Curious how the horses have been doing with the heat, and if the water level of the pond is any different.

      • 5

        The issue is the high ambient air temp… not sun scald.   There all sorts of articles talking about how drought & high temps can impact pollination.  My plants get watered at least once a week, so drought is not a factor here.  Seems like even temps in the mid to upper 90s can impact pollination.

        Horses have been doing rather well.  They take it easy, drink lots of water, and spend a lot of time in the shade under trees.  Every so often they will wade in the pond.  Several times a day they will head to the barn & nap in the shade of the shed roof.  I have fans on both ends blowing air on them.  They really like those fans.  We also always add mineral salt to their feed they get twice a day plus they have access to freely take more of that salt when in their stalls eating.

        Pond level has dropped around 5 feet.  If it drops much more without some rain runoff, I’ll run the hose into it.  I’ve found doing that stops the water loss and it actually will very slowly raise the water level.  My intent is to not let the pond get too low.  This winter it will fill back up.

      • 1

        That is a trickier problem then if the plants are struggling with just the ambient air temperature.

        Sounds like the horses are very happy though with all you have done for them!

    • 4

      Hello Redneck! Thanks for the post…I thought I was the only one having issues! This is our first year for a garden and we really don’t know what we’re doing!

      Our tomato plants are ten feet tall and loaded with blossoms! Unfortunately, there are very few tomatoes. We’ve gotten a few great tasting beefsteaks and a couple of the smaller tomatoes, but the chipmunks eat our cherry tomatoes even before they turn. That has been a whole different battle! 

      None of our squashes and zuchinni have produced. Again, a ton of blossoms but no fruit. The blossoms are huge, but die and fall off after a few days. 

      Our beets just flat our burned up, as did our radishes.

      Our best producer has been okra! We having to pick every day for the last two weeks, it’s growing and producing that much.

      As I said, we’re novices so we don’t really know about when to plant. We just spent a few bucks on a bunch of seed and stuck it in the ground. Everything intially sprouted and the plants are growing like crazy so sufficient water doesn’t seem to be an issue, just nothing producing. Your pollination comments make sense. We have lots of research to do before next season!

      Best of luck with the replanting!

      • 2

        Are you experiencing hotter than usual temps too?

        Okra does love it hot.  That is one reason I keep many thousands of its seed in storage.  I know it will produce when very hot & will those plants ever get huge and produce huge crops.  We have to pick about every 2 days.  We don’t want ours to get over 4″ long.  

      • 2

        Yes…we’re in Mississippi, south of you and in the delta…same heat, maybe even hotter!

        We pick the okra at about 4″, too. Our plants are only about three feet tall, but no starting to branch out a bit more. Is that normal growth?

        My wife has spoiled me once again. I will never order fried okra in a restaurant again because hers is so much better! We hope to get enough to pickle some, too.

      • 2

        Same here.  My wife makes the best fried okra.  I like to dip it in ketchup.  🙂

        Normally my okra plants get huge… maybe 7′ tall & 4′ wide but this year I’ve noticed my plants aren’t getting as big yet.  Maybe they will.  But yes, they do branch out a lot and you will find the pods all over the plant.

        You might find this discussion interesting.  There are some pics of my okra in it.  Also pics of some pickled okra and showing how we make a great appetizer by spreading cream cheese over a slice of ham and wrapping that around a whole pickled okra.  Cut that into slices & yum!


    • 4

      Very sorry to hear about your growing season. Yes, very much the same in North Central Florida, our crops are smaller. Grow seasons have shifted/are shifting earlier and dramatically. More heat tolerant varieties, better drip irrigation, mulching will all help, but only for a while. I’ve given up on growing a handful of foods here. In another five years, I’m not sure what we’ll be able to grow here. 

      I am a refugee studies researcher with a concentration in climate change, and everything I’ve read suggests that the lower Southeast will be uninhabitable in a few short decades. Climatologists are worried that they’re seeing their predictions come true decades earlier. The Pentagon, in 2019, said it is likely to collapse by 2039 because it will not be able to keep up with climate change risk multipliers, even most bases in the U.S. are in low-lying areas. 

      One solution is to grow more rugged, biodiverse varieties of food as food production collapses in real time. Grow hydroponically or in grow houses. Grow amaranth, certain varieties of beans. All very expensive to do. 

      I’m 37 with a toddler. 

      • 6

        We will have to adapt.  Adapt in what we grow.  Adapt in how we grow it.  I know the Univ. of Florida is currently developing a field corn variety to be able to handle higher temps.  I’m sure others are doing the same or will soon.

        I already use large amounts of drip irrigation.  It is not terribly expensive and anyone can put in their own system.  My 150 trees in the orchard are all on drip irrigation as well as my blackberries, blueberries and muscadines.  More of my garden will have it this fall.

        Amaranth is exceedingly easy & cheap to grow.  It doesn’t need much water or fertilizer and the whole plant is edible.  I’m testing out Copperhead amaranth right now.

      • 3

        Hi Redneck, I don’t have any tips to add, but I wanted to say: great topic, and good on you for working to find alternate varieties and solutions. Kudos. Best of luck, I hope you are able to adapt and overcome these climate challenges. Keep us posted on how it goes.

      • 1

        Thanks & will do.

    • 5

      Reading through the post & comments I have to ask, have you all seen sufficient pollinators & beneficial bugs in your gardens? I have a couple top bar beehives I enjoy in my garden & in spite of the early summer (grapes ready a month early, etc.) severe drought & 100+ temps, my stuff’s marching along abundantly: peaches, nectarines, 2 kinds plums, berries, cherries, apricots, tomatoes, peppers, cucs, apples, persimmons, pomegranates, oranges & lemons, herbs…plus a bunch of tasty edible weeds. There has been a marked improvement in yields in the 4 years or so since the bees came. Our plum tree alone had such an insane amount this year we’ve been giving shovels full daily to the goats & chickens & still tossing a bunch.  I don’t spray or use chemicals, so the natural world is very present & diverse in my garden, but they leave us more than we can eat & share. I use heavy mulch from chipped whole trees (mostly our own), and drip watering. Fertilizer is only what’s been dropped by our chickens & goats, then spread irregularly when I get ambitious, plus occasional ashes from woodstove. Not scientific, but very easy, natural and productive. The drought has required me to do some winter watering that we didn’t do in the past, but otherwise, all is thriving. I’m in the CA Central Valley…

      • 2

        Yes, I have lots of pollinators.  Corn however is wind pollinated.  Many plants struggle with many continuous days in the high 90s and 100s, and I’m seeing that.

      • 2

        Hmm, interesting. I wonder if the double whammy of heat + your high humidity  is the culprit then? I suppose it stays hot at night too? It’s been a few years since I planted corn, largely because of its Murphy’s Law tendency for it to all get ripe at once when I’m swamped with work or on vacation. It always did well, plenty of wind & I planted in blocks to maximize pollination. I’m frequently amused to see gardens planted with a useless single row of corn.

        I guess my only other suggestion might be as already mentioned in your post & the comments, testing alternate varieties. I have observed that a large mix of varieties allows one or two to especially prosper depending upon variables in climate on different years. Same principal that if only one zucchini is planted, you get none, but if you plant 2 or 3 you’re drowning in them. Downside of course is saving seed from a mixed planting becomes a roll of the dice genetically. We once had cucs & cantaloupe cross pollinate, and both tasted weird!

        Best of luck in your gardening & thanks for generously sharing both success and challenges so we can all learn together!

      • 4

        My understanding is many varieties can’t set fruit, or do it poorly when daytime highs get near 100 and stay there for several days.  The study I referenced regarding corn at the Univ. of Florida found that several nights with high temp shut down an enzyme responsible for storing starch.  Other studies show that corn pollen can be damaged, and pollen production slowed by temperatures in the mid-90s, and temperatures greater than 100°F can kill corn pollen.  We have seen these temps for weeks now.

        In the past, I’ve noticed my peppers would produce early, stop during the heat of summer and kick back in heavily in the late summer/fall, when it cools off some.  This year, it got hot & stayed hot so long, I haven’t picked any peppers yet.  The plants look fine so I’m hoping to have a good crop later.  My pole beans have grown great and have bloomed heavily.  I was able to pick for a week or two, but when these continuous days of high heat hit, the plants stopped setting beans.  That tells me it is a pollination issue associated with 100 degree days.  My bush beans won’t even grow.  They just die, even when given plenty of water.

        So now the challenge is to find varieties that can produce with many days in the 100s.  Those temps are extremely unusual here.  We would get them maybe 3-4 days in an entire summer.  This year, very high 90s & 100s are the norm.  Talked to the local farmer who supplies farmer’s markets around here again.  Once again, they say this is the worst year ever.  Even their field peas, which are supposed to love our hot, humid weather are not setting any peas this year.  Looks like we reached some critical point, with daytime highs at or above 100 for weeks on end, where food production is impacted.

        My fruit trees & berries have not been impacted.  I’m guessing because they all pollinate in the spring & set their fruit then.  By the time the high temps hit, all their fruit was already set.  I will say my amaranth is doing great.  Be interesting to see how well they set their seed.  I’m not expecting an issue with it.  

        Here is an interesting blog post about growing amaranth:

        The Grand Amaranth Experiment

      • 3

        Things just keep changing don’t they! Interesting data point, night temps; our local climate cools down into upper 50’s most summer nights due to a delta nearby generating winds, so there’s a solid difference point between our hotter climates. Perhaps that allows plants some recovery time that you guys miss out on. So much variability to track!

      • 2

        Yes, that study made me really think.  They focused on nighttime temps and their impact on corn ear formation.  I was only thinking of daytime temps.

        I do have faith that our scientists and growers will find solutions as our planet warms.

      • 3

        We’re in the CA Central Valley also, but must be south of you. Our nighttime temps are 68+. We get no Delta influence and little wind.

        Something we did for the second year is to cover our front garden with shade cloth. Last year was 70-80 % cloth. This year we used 40% reduction and covered a bigger area with better results. Cucumbers and zucchini would “wilt” much of the day which stressed the plants. This year little to no wilting and that is with less watering.

        The big thing is the ambient air temp is significantly lower under the shade cloth. My wife was weeding in the middle of the day under the cloth. We are considering permanent poles or hoop houses with shade cloth.

        FYI We live on a 50′ x 150′ lot in town with no grass and virtually everything else planted including the driveway.

      • 2

        Sounds like a good plan! Kudos to you for using your land productively without lawn. 😄 I hope your neighbors appreciate your industry.

         I’ve considered shade cloth, as my blackberries without fail get fried as they ripen, but mostly I just plant an over story wire grape trellis with grapes or a recent new addition, kiwis, to provide some shade to berries or whatever other more heat sensitive crop is underneath. It’s true that to the uninitiated my garden can appear to be an ungovernable mess aside from walkways. Used to drive my tidy husband nuts, until he noticed that my messy delicious garden got all the attention from visitors while his ever tidy lawns were walked over with little comment. There is managed order, but it isn’t always obvious. 

      • 2

        I don’t understand how blackberries can get fried by the sun, especially where you live.  If there was ever a crop designed to handle high heat and even high humidity, it would be the blackberry.  They grow wild here everywhere and thrive in our heat and even when dry.  If you grow civilized blackberries, a commercial variety that is given water occasionally, they should do wonderfully there… I’d think.  Have you tried any of the thornless varieties developed by the Univ. of Arkansas?

      • 2

        Yep, the very ones, Indian names, right? I’m resigned to eating them mostly with half succulent berry, half charred fiber. They’ve been in for years, same every year. The wild ones here get toasted on the top too, then the sheltered sides are usually ok if they haven’t received full sun. The funny thing is, the heat tolerant Caroline (I think that’s the name) raspberries produce reliably & for months with little trouble and a bit of shade, but the blackberries are always a pain. I’ve considered pulling them out in favor of something else, but haven’t hit on anything I’d rather try yet. 

      • 1

        That is so odd.  Mine are in the full hot Mississippi sun and aren’t bothered at all.  And yours get plenty of water and have decent soil?

        I wonder if your area is warm enough for muscadines?  They are the easiest things I grow.  They love it hot & nothing bothers them.  Mine produce huge crops of very large grapes.

      • 3

        Soil is great, water is all on drip under heavy chipped tree mulch. Muscadines look fun! Grapes do wonderfully well all around here, and are quite trouble free for me. My favorite vine that I bought as a sprouting bare root from the bargain bit at Lowes (Black Monukka, $1.50–felt sorry for it & admired its vigor) started ripening already a couple weeks ago & keeps its fruit good for months, just mellowing with time. If the squirrels & birds leave any alone the grapes actually dry in place into raisins. At the moment I have only a couple vines, but they give more than we can eat & I have even tried making a bit of wine with the extra. We have excellent variety & quantity of fruit growing here year around, so the blackberries being a pain are really not a big deal.

      • 2

        Must be that California air.  🙂

    • 3

      We had the opposite problem this spring…wettest spring in 80+ years, and that’s saying something for the Pacific NorthWET!  Cold/cool temps to match, no possibility of getting into the garden until mid-June, and even then the clay soil wasn’t really fit to till.  Fortunately, my husband had decided this spring to construct a replica of the 12×40 “hoop house” that we had some years back (having no idea what spring actually held in store!)  We ended up having to forego some of the normal summer veggies like squash (season far too short!) but I decided to plant part of the hoop, which is intended for winter gardening, with summer veggies.  I’ve had some unexpected problems, but I’m also logging some minor successes.  Several things like lettuce and spinach are ready to pull out (expecting 100 deg temps this coming week), which will leave me with space to plant more winter/spring crops. The side walls on the hoop (greenhouse film) have been pulled up and tied, so additional heat isn’t a problem.

      We did get a good crop of buckwheat on the “outdoor” garden for tilling in.  It’s really great for unlocking the tied-up phosphorus in our difficult soil.

      “Protected” gardening, as Johnny’s Selected Seeds calls it, is going to be a big thing for us.

      BTW Redneck, I now have a 40 ft row of Navaho blackberries from Ison’s, thanks to your recommendation.  There’s actually a tiny handful of berries that have “set”.  I should probably pick them to save the plants the energy for growth, but nothing stops blackberries in this part of the country!  LOL!  They’re a plague – my neighbors would think I’m nuts for deliberately planting them!  Instead, I’m going to “bag” the berries in cheesecloth or something to keep birds or bunnies from stealing them.  Can’t wait to taste them!

      • 3

        Remember once they stop bearing, the two year old canes that produced the berries will start to die.  At that point, I cut them off at ground level to make more room for the new canes.

        Yesterday my wife picked another gallon and picked some more blueberries.  Most went in the freezer but she made an absolutely incredible blueberry crostata, using Ina Garten’s recipe.  It was to die for.

    • 4

      We’re north and a little west of you, SW MO. The spring here was beautiful; mild with plenty of moisture, great hay all around. It has been dry the last 4-5 weeks, which is a long time here. Temps are up there too, over 100 on and off for 2 weeks or so already. Grass (Kentucky 31 is most pastures) is crispy, hay is $60 blae.

      Our garden is small, the topsoil very shallow over a fragipan, we built up a few 6″ raised beds, drip-lines. Early spring plantings did good, onions, garlic, and potatoes started good, had some cukes and zuks, tomatoes started OK some Brandywine some round red kind.

      Potatoes quit early, dug a few nice ones but the ground is like concrete, used more calories than they are worth digging, LOL, hopefully more later. Cukes are done, had a good amount early on. Onions were all small, garlic quit. Pole beans had an attack of groundhog, planted again, same. Relocated groundhogs to the conservation area. Not enough area for corn.

      Planted some grapes last year, took cuttings and planted them this year, all doing good. Blackberry died if you can believe it. Blueberries too.

      One of my criteria when we relocated from the West Coast initially was to be south of the 200 day growing line (for double cropping) and east of the tree line (rainfall). It may turn out that we have 2 growing seasons for the stuff we’re used to growing, spring and fall. Then some limited growing in july/August.  When we were here before we had a small hoophouse for early and late crops to sell. If we stay here we’ll probably do something similar but on a smaller scale. Maybe just row covers to beat a late frost. Might try that this year.

      • 3

        I didn’t know you could kill blackberries.  🙂  My blackberries and blueberries did great this year.  Like I said above, they pollinate & set their fruit in the spring, so the summer heat isn’t a factor for them.  My muscadine grapes likewise look great and are full of immature grapes, getting bigger by the week.

        I’ve learned growing apples down here is possible, but just too much trouble.  As trees get sick or die, I’m now replacing them with jujube.  Those look great this year and have really grown since last year.  They are all setting fruit in their 2nd year.  They are not bothered by any diseases or pests that I know of.  I’m also gonna put in some Peterson pawpaws this fall.  They also are supposed to be an easy fruit to grow.  I’m on notify lists for when they become available.

        I have grown potatoes in the past, both Irish & sweet potatoes.  They have set really nice crops, especially the sweet potatoes.  Problem is, it kills my back to dig them up.  Just way too much work for something I can get of similar quality at the store.  Only way I’d ever grow them again would be to plant a large crop, probably in the orchard, where I could use the middle buster plow on the tractor to get them out of the ground.  I have a neighbor that does that and it works great.

        I am blessed with rather good soil.  It is a clay/sand mix with some areas very sandy.  This part of Mississippi was underwater millions of years ago.  There are some places not far from us where people go to find huge prehistoric shark teeth.  If you go north just a few miles the soil is not so sandy.  I’ve been told our area was a beach for a very long time.

        I tried growing some stuff under row covers but I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  I normally can get two to three crops in, in a normal year.  But with climate change, I think I’m gonna adjust to not growing spring crops.  Our springs are getting shorter & shorter.  It gets hot so quick now, my spring crops just can’t make it.  So I’m gonna plant my summer crops a bit earlier and should still have plenty of time to grow fall crops.  My corn is already picked and normally I’d already have some other crop in its bed, but it is just too hot.  I’m gonna hold off maybe a month and then plan some bush beans in those rows.

    • 3

      Redneck, I’m sorry to hear your garden hasn’t done well. Here in East Texas we’re Zone 8b, so our climate is similar to yours. This summer has been pretty brutal. However, as hot and dry as it is, it is nothing compared to the summer of 1980. The temperature wasn’t just above 100, it was relentlessly above 110 for about 6 weeks. Everything fried. There are a lot of poultry farms around here and they lost a huge number of chickens that summer from the heat. I haven’t heard of any this year. Last year we didn’t even have any days above 100. It was great!

      My garden this year has done OK. The onions, green beans, and potatoes came in before the heat wave so they did great. The tomatoes are kind of struggling, but they are still producing. I put up a 40% shade cloth this week. I think it’s helping. I planted the Celebrity variety, which is designated as a Texas Superstar by the extension service. I think one of the criteria is the ability to produce in the heat. I planted purple hull peas after the potatoes and they look great. There was even a bee buzzing around them pollinating yesterday. I’ve also planted peanuts as an experiment. I don’t know if I’ll get any, but they look good so far. My blackberries are Ponca and Prime Ark Freedom. The Poncas were planted in January 2021, right before Snowmageddon. I’m just glad they survived. They produced some this spring. The PAFs were planted this year and I’m hoping to get some berries from them later, but I’m not seeing any blooms yet. What are you putting in for fall?

      • 1

        Growing peanuts would be very cool! Excited to hear how those turn out.

      • 1

        As of now, my plans are to put in collard greens, broccoli & filet bush beans.  My Seminole pumpkins are already growing & setting fruit.  They originate from Florida and love the heat