Every gardener, worldwide, has glorious expectations of the upcoming gardening season. Many families rely on their gardens for daily food and for getting through winter with canning and preserving the summer harvest. Gardeners can control many area of the actual process of growing, like enriching soil and getting good seed stock. We can also control some pest/insect infestation. Controlling the weather, well that’s a whole different story. To some degree, you can mitigate adverse weather conditions. Planting after a last frost date, provided the full moon has occurred is a relatively safe bet. If you live in a northern climate, have some frost blankets on hand for those last-minute dips in temperatures. Even in a drought situation you can still water and save some crops, provided you have access to water. It’s very disheartening to watch all your hard work produce very little.

The last two years here in Maine were drought-stricken. Because of the drought issues, we set up our rain collection system in mid-May instead of the beginning of June. The past two years it took many storms to fill up 6 fifty-five gallon barrels. This year, one whopping, torrential storm filled all the barrels in 24 hours! I was elated! I keep a gardening journal that details weather, insect issues, successes, and failures. The two previous years we had almost no rain June and most of July with some very hot temperatures. This June was very different. We had 28 out of 30 days of rain. Not nice gentle showers that delicately water everything, I am talking pounding, two to three days of nonstop rain storms. Totals of 3-4 inches of rain per storm. Roads and streams flooding were a daily occurrence. Our dirt road took a beating. At times it looked like chocolate milk running down the sides of the road.

Any seeds planted directly in the ground were washed out. Tender seedlings took a beating and few survived. Plants in the greenhouse weren’t rained to death but failed to thrive due to lack of sunlight. Some baby tomato plants were already getting a blighted look on their leaves. After a quick discussion with others in the same predicament a plan was hatched. Let’s all wait to July 1st and replant the seeds and what was left of seedlings and all will be fine!

Well, July came and went and although we had less rain, we still had well above average rainfall. Now there is another problem adding to the demise of the gardens this year, smoke! It seems like an endless amount of wildfires are actively burning in Canada since late spring. The few days we might actually have some sun are now filled with smoke. You could smell it, see it and everyone had red, swollen eyes. The hay crop which was usually harvested in June is now being done in between storms in July. Much of the hay crop was ruined in this fine state which is affecting prices and supply and demand. Maine is not usually a humid place but this year was awful. Moss and mushrooms were popping up everywhere. The temperatures were average but no sunshine and more rain. Slugs and snails were everywhere. They even got in our screened-in front porch and into my garden clogs. Oh, what a feeling that was when I stuck my bare feet into the clogs and felt slugs between my toes! You may have heard me screaming!

The first week of August the humidity broke and temperatures dropped into the low 40s in my area. Further north has high 30’s. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants do not like that kind of weather, although I do! These temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees lower than the forecast predicted. What is going on here?

It is now the second week of August and it’s pouring again. Three to four inches of rain today and only 60 degrees. Sporadic hail showers are showing up also. We don’t normally have large hail but the next town over did and it wiped out plants and damaged some vehicles. You can’t really resurrect a hail-damaged plant. You can try to cut off the broken stems but at this late time in the season, regrowth is not going to happen. As of this writing the tomatoes in the greenhouse are very leggy with hardly any fruit. I finally managed to pick several tomatoes and left them on my counter while I washed up. My dog Iggy thought the tomatoes were his red rubber ball and ate all of them. The peppers are barely growing. The eggplants are still the same height as when I planted them two months ago. Lack of sunlight has taken its toll. Any new seeds or seedlings planted have been wiped out by rain again but ironically the garlic crop did well. The bush beans also produced fairly well. Flowers look beat up also and many taller plants are now horizontal or broken.

If there is a lot of rain but still some sunshine you may be able to salvage some plants. Anything planted in a raised bed stands a better chance due to drainage. If you are in a low spot that collects water, this year really worked against you. Try not to walk near your plants as you will compact the soil around the plant and prevent proper drainage. Stirring up the soil very carefully around the plants can help with drying out the top layer of soil but be careful of the roots. The poor plants are stressed enough without you disturbing the roots and causing further issues. Blight and fungus are not preventable this year. Pick slugs and snails off your plants daily. Crushed eggshells or sand around the plants will discourage slugs. So I have pretty much accepted defeat and will dream of next year’s garden and bounty.

So now what about all the canning I had planned on? Time to hit the local farmer’s market. I usually don’t go to farm markets but it was necessary in this case. The prices are unbelievable and the place I went to was getting stuff from other farms in neighboring states due to the weather. When planning my canning for the upcoming year, I try to can at least two years’ worth of product so that if some crop fails, I have enough to get through to the following year. I have so many jars of green beans from the last two years of a great harvest, that I only planted ½ the amount I usually do. Next year I will plant a full bed of beans and put myself ahead again. I thankfully also still have tons of jars of carrots from last year.

This year’s carrot seed was washed away several times, it’s probably in the Atlantic Ocean, by now. I will need to purchase pickling cukes as I am low on dill pickles. I will also need to purchase some veggies for my spicy, pickled vegetables which my husband and I love to eat. Bartering is a great way to get what is needed also. I will be bartering some eggs in exchange for several quarts of blackberries. I have many blackberries growing on my property but Mr. Bear has made himself very well known recently and I will gladly barter for berries this year. I normally don’t can fruits and vegetables from the grocery store but if something looks particularly good I will take advantage and preserve it. It’s better to have it sitting on my pantry shelf.

There are always piles of vegetables at church for anyone who needs them although I am not seeing much this year. Folks are having a seriously hard time with the cost of food. If you are not a particularly good gardener there are some things you can do to get some fresh fruits and vegetables for your family. We do have local farm shares offered each spring and they are very expensive and offer no guarantee due to weather, bugs, etc. You can barter a service with a gardener, like offer to help weed or help with preserving some of the produce. Bartering is wonderful. We traded a butchered rabbit for a case of apples. I made a huge batch of bread and butter pickles and a friend made dill pickles and we swapped some jars for variety. Herbs can still be picked and dried, maybe not in the usual quantity but make do with what you have.

Cooler weather crops can be grown into fall depending on your growing zone. Make the most of the growing season. I am in Zone 3 so there is very little margin for error. Next year I will make sure I start extra seedlings just in case. Unfortunately this year it would not have made any difference but I can always find a home for them if I don’t need them. Besides, can you ever really have too many plants?

So I and my friends have come to accept that this year’s garden is literally a wash. I can move on to cleaning up some of my garden beds and fortifying the soil, which is usually an October project. I will again inventory my seed stock, check over all my tools and have them sharpened, and enjoy what little I have currently growing. I will go to sleep at night and have sweet dreams of next’s year harvest, of blue skies, a perfect amount of rainfall, and no slugs! May God bless you all.