In almost every way, this Spring is turning out to be a completely different gardening experience than last year.
In Spring '08, it seemed like the seeds I planted all sprouted nicely, grew steadily, fended off pests and even the odd hailstorm. Rain fell from the sky in reasonably-timed doses, and by early July I had a lush garden from which I had already harvested most of my nearly perfect radishes.
I guess it was time for me to learn a few different things in Spring '09. So far, the marigolds I planted to help keep the deer away were frost killed the day after I planted them. On June 1st. Yes, frost in June. The cherry tomato plant I bought from the local nursery at the same time suffered the same fate. And that wasn't the last day of frost either - about two nights ago we had another frost.
My little bean plants, which valiantly weathered the multiple frosts, have since succumbed to a combination of no rain and full sun. I had been watering the garden regularly, but not regularly enough, apparently. Yesterday morning when I went out to water it again, all the bean plants were dead, and the one pumpkin sprout was completely gone. No doubt it had been nibbled by the critter whose footprints were in the (as yet sproutless) carrot patch.
Peering at the scalded and crispy bean plants I knew they were beyond re-hydration. The garden that looked so full of promise just a week earlier was bleakly barren, with only a couple tiny, struggling kale sprouts poking through the dirt. Not even the radishes had sprouted, and it's been almost three weeks since I seeded them. The weeds of course, are doing fine. For a while there I was despondent. Devastated even. Swearing. Tears. Not fun.
The only thing left to do was to pick up the watering can again, and keep the seeds still waiting to sprout moist enough. Not all the bean plants had sprouted, at least half were still to come. And there were still peas, carrots, potatoes and cucumbers waiting in the soil for their turn.
Later that evening, I went back to the garden to water again, and there was some hope still: several pea plants had come up, and one potato was sprouting. And sure enough, one or two more beans were pushing through the soil. No more pumpkin sprouts, but there's still time yet. I got out the sprinkler and set it up again, deciding that these new plants would not die of drought, at least not while I still have enough water in the cistern to water them.
So, ok, I lost a few beans and a pumpkin. Imagine what it must be like for a farmer who looks out onto his/her fields and sees an entire frost- or drought-killed crop. I know when I looked at those withered beans I was sure glad there was still the grocery store and a CSA share to depend on, at least for now. I'm thankful I have the luxury of time to make some mistakes and learn from them. I'm also thankful I am growing a garden myself, because this Spring '09 weather is surely affecting my CSA farmers and other Alberta farmers and gardeners. We no longer have the luxury of putting all of our agricultural eggs in one basket: it's time for everyone to start growing a garden, even if its just a small one.
So, what are you planting, and how is it doing?
Image of this very determined potato courtesy Warm Fuzzies