While we have heard quite a lot about how the forest fire smoke in the Rogue Valley is likely to affect people, I have also found it interesting to note how it is affecting my garden.
During the days of intense sun and heat that preceded the fires, many of my plants were unhappy. Tomatoes stopped putting out new blooms, but continued to put on leafy growth. I sadly watched my gladiolus and daylilies have a short bloom period as they suffered in the heat.
I protected my cucumbers with a sheet of Remay, because the leaves were getting sunburned. I moved my dahlias that are in pots out of the direct sun and into a partially shaded area. I even rigged up a shade over my worm bin. These things helped get through those 100-plus degree days.
Then came the forest fires at the end of July and smoke swept into your garden and mine.
Whether it's clouds or heavy smoke blocking the sun's rays, it has an effect on plant growth. That's because photosynthesis — a plant's ability to make food from carbon dioxide and water using sunlight — is lessened when the sun's rays are reduced.
So, looking at the positive side of that information, here are a few things that have occurred in my garden over the last few days. I took the Remay off the cucumbers, and they continue to produce prolifically, with no sunburn. The dahlias are back in their usual place. My mandevilla, which did not like the intense sun, has come out of its doldrums and is growing and blooming more normally.
My fall-bearing raspberries are way ahead of schedule, no doubt because of the heat. My Old Garden Rose has rebloomed already, and friends with floribundas and hybrid teas tell me they are having that experience, too.
No doubt we will have other previously unanticipated things happen, between the earlier heat and the smoke. For example, Gabriel Balint, Oregon State University viticulturist, commented that many wine grapes may have a smoky flavor this year. Actually, that sounds good to me! On the other hand, David Sugar, OSU plant pathologist, doesn't think the smoke will affect the flavor of pears.
All of which continues to make gardening interesting and challenging. Let's watch and learn. And stay indoors as much as possible on the really smoky days!
Coming up: Master Gardener Tresa Jarel will teach us how to store produce for the winter without canning. The class will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. The cost is $5. Call 541-776-7371 to register.
Applications are now being accepted for the OSU Land Steward Program. Held on 10 consecutive Tuesdays from Sept.17 to Nov. 19, these in-the-field classes are for those who own a few or a few hundred acres and are interested in managing their natural resources more efficiently. Topics include fire safety, reducing yard and woody waste, making mulch and compost, weed identification, developing wildlife habitat and water conservation. Call 541-776-7371 for more information.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.