OGDEN -- This summer's hot temperatures may be making home gardeners wilt, but fruit trees and vegetable plots are thriving.
"Overall, a lot of crops are doing well this year," said Dorinda Jones, a Utah State University extension agent based at Ogden Botanical Gardens.
"We didn't have a late freeze that would hurt the fruit crops, or a wet spring that could increase fungus problems. The weather is perfect for hot-weather crops like cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins and squash. The tomatoes are doing great," Jones said.
Dylan Lemon works at Grammy's Fruit & Produce, in Willard. It's one of a string of farms and produce stands along U.S. Highway 89, between Brigham City and just south of Willard, that are collectively known as Fruit Way.
"We're seeing a lot more peaches and apples and whatnot," Lemon said. "The tomatoes are going to be a bit larger due to the heat, and the corn will be bigger. Melons aren't affected by the heat. But plants don't excel in the heat unless you keep water on them. It was harder on crops like peas, which have been done for a week and a half, because of extreme heat."
Grammy's Fruit & Produce, at 7375 S. U.S. 89, Willard, grows produce on about 60 acres, Lemon said. Home gardeners should see a good harvest as well, as long as they keep plants hydrated when temperatures soar, she said. Row crops are much more vulnerable than fruit trees, she said.
Jones suggests home gardeners use soaker hoses.
"I'm a big advocate," she said. "They put out a small amount of water and are able to get it to the roots of the plants, with less evaporation. You can water for a longer period, so it goes deeper."
Watering early or late also decreases evaporation, she said.
For lawns, Jones suggests an inch or two of water a week. For gardens, a visual check will let you know if plants are in distress. Many plants curl their leaves in an attempt to lessen moisture loss. Leaf scorching is a sign of more serious damage.
Jones said that because of the mild spring, some insect populations are larger and stronger than usual.
"There are probably more insects this year than previously," she said. "The coddling moth, which is what creates wormy apples, will probably have three generations, or life cycles, rather than two this year. It just means you'll have to spray more than usual."
Apricots and early peaches have already come on strong, and the row-crop harvest looks promising, but it's early in the gardening season, so farmers markets and Fruit Way stands do not yet have the bounty of produce they will later in the season.
Lemon said Grammy recently picked its first loads of tomatoes, and the first jalapeno peppers should be ready in a week or so. Grammy's also has several varieties of summer squash, she said.
At Fruit Way stands and farmers markets, the cherry season continues, as does the harvest of early peaches.
Home gardeners seeking advice on fruit trees or vegetable gardens can call the Ogden Botanical Gardens between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The number is 801-399-8080.
"We usually get a lot of calls on tomatoes," Jones said. "In the past, people call and ask why their tomatoes aren't getting ripe. Tomatoes are doing a lot better this year."
For online information from USU on dealing with insects and plant diseases, go to http://extension.usu.edu/weber.
Jones' last bit of advice:
"The selection is going to be great this year. Just enjoy this year, enjoy your plants, enjoy your harvest."