Mid-valley's mild weather has slowed crops for farmers, gardeners

Those who are waiting to bake under a blazing-hot summer sun might want to hop a flight to Texas, which has seen triple-digit highs for more than a month.

But in the mid-valley, we might not even see the mercury top 90. For the summer of 2011, the official temperature has yet to reach 90 degrees in the mid-valley, although we did hit 89 on July 24.

According to the Oregon Climate Service, May, June and July's average low temperatures have been the second-coolest in the state's weather history since record-keeping began in 1889.

The coolest summer was in 1916.

Although La Nina's contribution to cooler-than-average ocean temperatures caused this spring's cool, wet weather, the culprit for this summer's big chill is a low-pressure system that has hunkered down off the Pacific Northwest for most of the summer.

"We haven't built the high-pressure ridge over us that we normally have in the summer," said Kathie Dello, Oregon Climate Service's deputy director. The stagnant high-pressure system that caused the miserable heat in the East acted like a block, keeping the Northwest's low-pressure system in place.

Kathi Tucker, president of the Benton County Master Gardener Association, said this low pressure and the resulting cool temperatures have taken their toll on gardens, allowing the growth of more fungal diseases, such as black spot on roses.

They've also delayed the ripening of produce, like some varieties of Janet and Ed Radke's blueberry crop at their farm, Radke's Blueberries. Their blueberries weren't ready for picking until the end of July - two weeks later than normal.

Ed Radke said Tuesday that the farm is closed for a week to allow more berries to ripen.

The comparable chill has a plus side for some plants, however. Tucker said they delay in ripening has extended the season of early crops, such as snap peas.

"Normally, they'd be done by July," she said.

However, at a time of year when record high temperatures are in triple digits (the all-time high of 108 was set on Aug. 8, 1981), the mid-valley's forecast temperatures - at least through Friday - are expected to stay cooler, under sunny skies, with a few clouds and highs in the mid-80s.

There's still plenty of time for hot weather. Autumn, which starts Sept. 23, is more than five weeks away, and the record high for that date is 95.



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