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High temps can damage lawns, crops

Too much sun threatens valley's peak growing season
 Posted: 12:45 PM July 28, 2009

Sustained triple-digit temperatures don't help the Rogue Valley's agricultural crops or residential lawns and gardens.

"Anything over 90 to 95 degrees will shut down plants," said Phil Van Buskirk of the Oregon State University Extension Service office in Central Point. "It harms the sizing of grapes and pears — it's not a good thing. It just shuts down everything as far as the growth of fruit. At a time when you want everything growing, it will slow it down or stop it completely."

Peach harvests are under way, while summer variety pear picking is due to begin around the second week of August. Harvest of fall pear varieties begins at the end August.

While trees and plants typically perspire, breathe and grow under normal conditions, their behavior changes in high heat.

"A tree is going to sit there and go into survival mode," Van Buskirk said. "The stoma of the leaves are just going to shut down and the tree is going to try not to lose moisture. As long as you're applying water to the tree, it's not going to die."

Van Buskirk said it's important to irrigate plants "almost daily" in triple-digit weather.

"In my neighborhood, you can't find a green lawn," he said. "Most irrigators on are on timers or run every other day and aren't getting enough. Plants certainly need more water when things get this warm."

At the Grange Co-op retail store on South Pacific Highway, Esther Lee said the plants gets a triple dose of water on days when the mercury soars.

"It's water, water, water for the plants," Lee said. "As soon as it's daylight we start. We water three times a day, even for the 1-gallon and 5-gallon plants. We wet the soil down so there is cool moisture coming up for the plants."

Reach Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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