It's August 1, and thus a garden update is due. The season is essentially half over, if you figure that we planted in late May (Memorial Day weekend, which in Maine assures the danger of frost being over), and we should harvest through the end of September, maybe early October before the first frost hits.
Generally, it's been very disappointing. We've had an unusually rainy summer. I would guess that in all of June and July, we've had no more than 10 days of non-stop sunshine, and every other day has involved rain, either with on-and-off showers or absolute downpours. The gray cloud cover has been consistent, and as you might expect, without sun plants don't grow much. Theoretically, weeds don't grow either, but I haven't noticed this to be the case as nearly as much as I would like. Weeds are weeds precisely because they can survive anything and aren't remotely picky aobut growing conditions.
The real disappointment has been the tomatoes, which are about a month behind where they ought to be. We won't harvest any tomatoes until late August at the earliest, and we were gorging on them this time last year. I was hoping to be canning them by this time too, but there just aren't any yet, other than little green ones that might grow into something in a month or so. Likewise, the peas look as anemic as they did last year, which surprised me; I thought peas were supposed to like it good and wet. This apparently is not the case.
The basil plants we planted are doing all right, but the basil seeds we put in never came up at all. I expect that they were drowned out entirely by the non-stop rain in June. Likewise, the beet seeds never came up at all, nor most of the squashes and cucumbers. We replanted those, and they have decided to sprout now, but again, everything will be very late. The beets refused to sprout twice; it might be that the seeds are bod, though I doubt it. I think they just rotted in the ground twice. The sunflowers are not nearly as tall as they should be, though we will get full flowers and seeds eventually. Most of the salad greens were literally a washout as well, though we replanted them, and we're just now beginning to see them sprout, so there's hope. I was hoping for salads in August, though. Maybe, maybe not.
Other than the beets, the root vegetables seems to be pretty happy. This doesn't surprise me, as root vegetables seem to like it cool and moist, and that describes our summer in a nutshell. We should have a bumper crop of parsnips and leeks, and we're planning on overwintering them so we can gorge on them all winter long. We'd have to do so anyway, becasue we planted so many of them. The onions seem to be fine, too, except for the red onions, which sprouted and then promptly rotted. I guess that they are a little fussy, but I would be too in the wet, wet fields of Maine.
The potatoes went in recently, so we'll see. The broccoli never took off at all -- too wet. The eggplant, a new crop for me, looks pretty pathetic, but again, we'll see what happens. The cabbages and bok choy are only now beginning to take off, and the nasturtiums have just started putting out flowers. The pole beans are beginning to climb, but not as much as they did last year.
So I'm adopting a "wait and see" attitude, as everybody is. I am not alone in bemoaning my garden. Every gardener in Maine I know has had the same story of seeds rotting in the ground because it was so wet, and stunted growth because of a lack of sun and too much rain. Some farmers are really worried because it's too wet to hay, and if that doesn't get done, then animals won't get fed; dairy farmers in particular are really getting concerned. The June strawberry crop was pretty much wiped out; friends on mine lost 75% of their strawberries because the ground was so wet that the berries just rotted in the fields before they could be picked. Le'ts hope the blueberries like it good and wet.
Hope springs eternal, even if the crops don't. All of these failures remind me that gardening is very much a matter of hope and luck. , and that planting a garden is an exercise in faith. Weather is a variable that one can't control very much, and it determines all. The stuff that we can plan, we did; we rotated crops based on what we felt were the drainage patterns of our plot, and we composted lots of our beds to help our babies along. We also planted things that would do well next to each other. In short, we planned a good garden. But once we'd done that, all bets were off. It was out of our control now, and all we could do is pray and hope. And check the weather worriedly.
I am hoping that the second half of the summer and fall is drier than the first, and if it is, we may yet get a decent harvest. Some things will do well, and some we've already sort of given up on, chalked it up to experience, and revised our expectations accordingly. However it plays out, I still am pleased to report that there are few things more satisfying than being in the garden. Even brainless drudgery like weeding is enjoyable in the cool of the evening, the birds twittering in the distance and the chickens visiting to see what you're up to. (Chickens are more social than I realize,d, something that you'd never know if your only experience of them is in the form of McNuggets.) Alicia wisely treats weeding as a Zen practice, and I admit that there is a certain Zen ethos to gently pulling weeds out one by one, leaving the tender plants that you do want while putting the ones you don't want in a pile where they will decompose and enrich what you've left. So even if I get no vegetables, I am getting the experience of doing something intentionally because it simply must be done. Futility should always be so pleasant.