Is it HOT enough for you yet?

Don’t worry. It probably will start cooling down sometime about November. A transplanted Northerner friend of mine admitted that when he first moved to the South during the cool season, he had contempt for Southerners, thinking that they are slow and lazy. After a summer or two, he realized that it was a form of self-preservation in this heat, and we had to work smarter, not harder, just to survive.

In fact, he compared summer in the Pee Dee in biblical terms, but since I am a horticulturist, I compare it in plant terms.

It’s so hot that tomatoes drop their flowers, stop producing and give us little sustenance, since homegrown ’mater sandwiches are our No. 1 favorite summertime food. Even certified S.C.-grown farms are having a hard time producing tomatoes with this heat. Be happy if you find some.

It’s so hot that beans drop their flowers, stop producing and give us little sustenance, since butterbeans are our No. 2 favorite summertime food. Warning: Butterbeans are going to be hard to find this summer.

It’s so hot that sweet potato becomes our favorite pie, because sweet potatoes (and their close kin, morning glories) love the heat. In fact, if you give them some water at transplanting, they will stand up and grow even in these conditions.

It’s so hot that bell peppers are scalded by the sun and burning up in the field. However, hot peppers are basting in the heat and getting hotter as the heat continues.

It’s so hot that Camellia sinensis (close kin to the japonica and sasanqua) becomes our favorite plant, since it is the source of those tiny little tea leaves that, when combined with tons of sugar, make our Southern lifeblood, sweet tea, which keeps us hydrated and sweating. Along with Charleston Tea Plantation, I just visited a new tea farm in the Upstate: Table Rock Tea Company.

Finally, it’s so hot that pigweed is the only plant really thriving, and it grows faster than some folks walk, talk or work. Also, most weed-control chemicals need rain for activation, allowing pigweed to take over the known world. I have finally figured out the new math they are teaching kids in school: “When you pull one pigweed, 10 take its place.”

We have nine to 10 months of wonderful crop production weather in the Pee Dee, but this is the bottom line: No vegetable, fruit or ornamental should be grown commercially here without irrigation.

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