Thursday, 11 June 2009

Gardening gets tough in Spring '09

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


Liz said...

I've always said that I could never be a farmer - too many things out of my control. And my garden gives me an even greater appreciation for what they give us.

We, too, have had late frost but I think I held off long enough that we'll be okay. Potatoes are starting to sprout. Carrots. Peas. Radishes. Lettuce. Haven't killed the leeks or tomatoes that were transplanted yet. And, I might be wrong, but there may have even been a wee pumpkin starting to sprout some green. I'll be thrilled as not one pumpkin came up last year...and the raccoons feasted on the corn. This year I've planted a pumpkin fortress around my corn. I'm gonna win. ;o)

AnnF said...

Have you tried row cover? It's the first year I've tried it - and so far I'm happy. With the extra few degrees the plants are happier. And my wall-o-water surrounded tomato is the one doing the best in the garden. (My container tomatoes are doing the best.) With as cool as this spring has been the extra few degrees helps. And a couple of milk jugs painted black and filled with water don't hurt either.

Chile said...

It's so disappointing to plant lots of seeds with a vision of a future lush garden only to have it not turn out that way. But, as you say, we have the time now to get it figured out luckily.

My sweetie has quite a few plants going. Most successful growers so far (nothing producing yet) are tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, long beans, sunflowers, and corn. A lot more than that has been planted but either did not germinate, is struggling, fried in the sun, or get pecked by birds.

Heather @ SGF said...

We have tons of plants in (well, tons for us) and so far, we've only had to battle the caterpillars. Let's see, we have lettuce, chard, collards, basil, multiplying green onions, yellow onions, basil, sage, green beans, black beans, green peppers, banana peppers, tomatoes, lambs-quarter, sweet potatoes, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, and cucumbers. Pshew!

Theresa said...

Hi Liz - I don't think I could be a farmer either, I just get so anxious about the things I can't control, like the weather ;) Gotta work on that... Glad to hear your garden escaped the worst of the frost!

HI AnnF- thanks for coming by and taking the time to comment! No, I haven't tried row covers - but I may have to. I like the black milk jug idea - do you just put these next to the plants and they re-radiate the heat they've absorbed? What a good idea!

Hi Chile - I guess you have to deal with the heat every year where you live. It is so sad to see the little plants all withered and brown :( Sounds like you and your sweetie have been able to adjust though - I guess that's part of what gardening is all about (and life!)

Hi Heather - wow, that is a lot of stuff - good for you guys! We haven't had caterpillars (yet) but I have seen a couple cutworms, which I'm not too happy about. I don't think they were around last year either.

Anonymous said...

My goodness, let me tell you, our garden and experiences this year sound a LOT like yours. June 1st we got our frost too just like you, and it killed all of our seedlings we had sown. 15 Corn, 11 out of 12 tomato plants, and our two giant zucchini plants that we had out there. And I wont lie, I cried. But, like you hinted at, I realized, as I dried my eyes, that I'm very lucky that I do not depend on that food for my survival.

We'll go get some more tomato plants, already planted a few more zucchini plants we'll transfer in next weekend, our cukes are finally popping up, our turnips came up, and our teeny tiny shoots of chard are up (though I am not sure it will survive) and our tiny carrots are up too- boy are those tiny and fair seedlings, I had no idea!!!

So although two weeks ago left me in tears, a good inspection this afternoon after being gone for two weeks has left me hopeful. Your newest post sounds like you too have found some encouragement. :)

Theresa said...

That sure does sound similar, SV! I too will go get another tomato plant - that's still an option and I'll take advantage of it this year. I have learned a lot, and there are some mistakes I won't repeat. I'm sure I'll make different ones next year, but hopefully over time my mistakes will just result in setbacks, not total plant death!

Evelyn in Canada said...

Being in town (Edmonton), we didn't get the frost or snow that you probably got. I lost nothing due to frost, but some of the germination is really late. My carrots are particularly bad, and others are just sporadic. I still have a few kohlrabi popping up now, and some peas are still coming through, weeks after the first sprouts. Onions too. I think I lost a cucumber yesterday due to dryness under a roof overhang. I've replanted a few things (carrots, filling in patchy spots in my chard row), but I'm trying so hard not to buy anything more for the garden. I seeded as much as I could this year, including tomatoes, and I'm really trying to do that as much as possible.

I'm happy to have found you. I blog a lot about my garden as well (although not this week), so check me out.