Market Farmers Share How They Deal With the Heat

Reader Contribution by Lynn Byczynski
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Despite record high temperatures that are scorching much of the United States this summer, market gardeners keep working. They have to harvest, plant and sell their products, whatever the temperature. Growing for Market magazine recently asked readers to share advice for dealing with the heat, and got great responses from people across the country who have figured out strategies for keeping themselves and their crops cool. Here are some suggestions that might help you beat the heat:

First, be cautious about working outside when it’s in the upper 90s and higher. Take it easy, work for just an hour or two before taking a rest, drink plenty of water, and get up extra early so you can get the hard work done before it gets too hot. One reader says she works until midnight by the light of the tractor; another says she tries to be in place and ready to pick tomatoes the instant the morning light is bright enough that she can see what’s ripe.

When the sun climbs high, evaporative cooling becomes a grower’s best friend. A Texas grower says she wears long, loose clothing and soaks herself completely with the hose a couple of times an hour. A Missouri grower takes a cooler of ice water and hand towels to the field and drapes a chilly wet towel across the back of her neck, exchanging it often for another cold one.

At the farmers market, growers put soaking wet burlap or sheets under their produce to keep veggies fresh. One vendor revealed that she keeps her feet in a bucket of ice water when the pavement starts to heat up.

Getting new plants started in summer can be a real challenge when the temperatures are in the 90s. A grower in Indiana explains that he spreads compost on the bed, waters it thoroughly and then direct seeds. He covers the bed with several layers of row cover until the seeds germinate. A lettuce grower in Massachusetts, where the highest temperature in 100 years was recently reported, has found ‘Loma,’ ‘Nevada’ and ‘Teide’ to be the most heat-tolerant varieties.

Want more tips? Read Strategies to Help You Beat the Heat on the Growing for Market website.

Photo by Fotolia/Sandra Cunningham

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