Albany community gardens harvesting earlier due to heat wave
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - If you depend on a Flint River Fresh community garden for your food, the Fourth of July may be the last time you’ll be able to get fresh produce from it. The reason? The extreme heat over the past few weeks.
As we’re going through this heat wave, Flint River Fresh Executive Director Fredando “Farmer Fredo” Jackson said to pay more attention to your crops. Often in extreme heat, he said you have to harvest much earlier.
“The Fourth of July might be it for a lot of community garden spaces just because of the heat,” said Jackson.
Heat in the upper 90s and hitting triple digits by early afternoon has Jackson harvesting and already planning for the fall.
“At certain temperatures, certain vegetable plants stop producing blooms. Because of the amount of heat, it doesn’t have enough water to really fill out ears of corn. So our window to harvest is cut short,” said Jackson.
The nonprofit helps to feed those living nearby, but the food not used by community members is given to food banks like Feeding the Valley.
The heat prevents the vegetable or fruit from growing to its typical size. That’s because the plant is exposed to more bugs and more sunlight, which then takes water from the soil.
“A tomato, for example, we all want them to turn bright red and juicy but that might not be possible because it’s not getting enough water. It’s not getting enough calcium and things that it needs,” said Jackson.
Farmer Fredo is spending this week checking the gardens across Dougherty, Sumter, Houston, and Colquitt counties to see how the produce is responding to the heat.
“We’re going to have to get it out because it’s not going to grow anymore. It’s going to dry out on the stock and then that the end of what you’re trying to do to feed the community,” said Jackson.
The end of July is typically when they’re looking to rotate crops for the fall. But this year, they’re likely going to make that transition much earlier.
If you have a small plot or raised garden bed at home the heat doesn’t necessarily have to cut your harvest short.
“You can easily put a little shade cloth over the top of it and that will drop the temperature down and water and still have a steady harvest,” said Jackson.
A key word there is water. Jackson said it’s important your plants get enough water, but not too much. He uses a strategy that he calls the “feel test.”
″Literally, you’re just touching the soil taking a little scoop of it. If it can make like a sponge and it doesn’t seem to be drained with water, that’s exactly what you’re looking for,” said Jackson.
The best time to water your plants is early morning or late afternoon. One thing you shouldn’t do is add fertilizer.
“Do not fertilize. You want to fertilize your plants want to feed it, but you have to be careful. With this much heat how much stress it can create into the plant things like that as well,” said Jackson.
Lastly because of the heat, fruit and vegetables won’t be as developed as usual. You may have to pick them earlier. But if you take the proper steps, Jackson said they can probably bounce back going into August.
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