Ed Radke

Ed Radke checks his blueberries Tuesday afternoon. The u-pick fields are closed due to the number of unripe berries. (Andy Cripe | Corvallis Gazette-Times)

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.

But 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 1891.

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, like black spot on roses.

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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 varieties of berries were ready for picking at the end of July — two weeks later than normal. The Radke’s had to do some extra pruning of the “bluecrop” variety because the cooler weather gave rise to the growth of greenery rather than fruit; that also decreased their yield. So instead of the dark purple blueberries, “The combination (of weather and growing conditions) made for pink berries,” Ed Radke said Tuesday.

Because quite a number of unripe pink blueberries remain on many of their plants, the Radkes have closed their u-pick fields. They hope another week of sunshine will enable them to reopen when more berries are ripe.

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

“Normally, they’d be done by July,” she said.

However, at a time of year when the record high temperatures are all in triple digits (the all-time high of 108 was on Aug. 8, 1981), our forecast through Friday calls for relatively modest highs in the mid-80s — and no rain in sight.

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