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life in the 100s

I’ve slowed down on keeping my garden journal, both on paper and here. What precious time I have to devote to my garden is unfortunately not in writing, but in keeping it alive.

I must sound redundant now, since my last 2 posts have been about heat and storms and heat. Since May 15, we have had record-breaking temperature and little to no rain. My poor garden looks on in desperation. It is at points like this that a gardener wants to throw in the towel. The tomatoes which I had so carefully nursed from seed, pushed them under lights 18 hours a day so that I could have tomatoes in early June, planted early and deep and protected them–did all that one can do to nurse gorgeous tomatoes–look absolutely pathetic, and several of the tomato bushes didn’t put out a single fruit. (I don’t blame the heat completely; I think they are missing some nutrients as well. I will have to redo my vegetable bed in July and add lots of compost.)

I’ve resorted to night gardening, which is actually really relaxing. One night I was up to nearly 3 a.m. watering, clipping, cleaning. (Dead leaves are still falling from trees damaged by last month’s storms.) But overall, I am worried at how much I will have to water to keep what is important surviving. I’ve given up on the annuals. Most people plant zinnias here in April or May but things got hot so fast that even the heat-loving annuals are desperate, not having much of a head-start on roots before the temperatures started tipping toward the 100s.

Yes, that’s right, the 100s. We’ve had about 4 of them so far. Yesterday and today were 101. And we’ve had only one day below 95 in the last 5 weeks.

This indeed is the hardest thing about living in Austin. Nearly 6 months out of the year are above 90, but the record years–as this one is turning out to be–in which long periods of drought and heat-index temps of 100 all during May and June, the time of the year when most of the U.S.’s friendlier southern climes are celebrating spring, make me run for cover.

There is a big difference between 90 and 100, bigger than 80 and 90. You can feel it; as my English friend says, when it gets up to the highest temps it feels as if everything is oozing heat from the inside out.

I don’t miss the snow and endlessly bitter winters of the very northern place I grew up in, but I certainly don’t know if this heat is worth the trade-off. I stare in disbelief as young college students in my neighborhood go jogging in the middle of the afternoon. What, are they crazy, do they have some natural electrolyte reserve? I look at my flowers and think, if they are wilting this hard, what do we think we’re doing by trying to exercise in this weather?