This summer was a bummeróhorticulturally speaking. We havenít experienced such a prolonged drought and heat since 1988, the year I moved into my current home. I had hoped to complete all of my plans to install 6 raised beds for vegetables and raspberries in the back yard as well as to move ornamental perennial flowers to new beds to allow for more room for additional vegetables in the front yard. I have achieved about half of my goal so far: we installed the raised beds and planted vegetables well before the high temperatures hit us in late June. I planned to wait until the raspberries fruited and then transplant them, but because of the extreme weather, I had to postpone this chore. The conditions are now fine, and I will not only move my raspberries, but will also begin to move the ornamentals to create the new vegetable site.
This is natural in the life of a gardener. We donít control the heat, rain or sunshine that we receive no matter how much we want to. What concerns me is that this weather may foreshadow a new normalóthat we will be using much more water than we used to just to keep plants alive like I did last summer. My three 75 gallon rain barrels were almost depleted at one point, and I watered by hose much more often than I had intended to. As a result, Iím considering installing one more rain barrel in order to use less city water.
I also used air conditioning for the longest stretch than I can remember. I had to finish my outdoor work by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. and then remained indoors for most of the day. I had cabin fever in the summer! I couldnít enjoy my yard nor could I complete the work I wanted to do. Thank goodness for the Great River Shakespeare Festival and Beethoven Festival that redeemed the heat!
Naturally, the harvest exploded as soon as I had to return to my job at Winona State University! The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants were happy as long as they were watered enough. In fact, Iíve been up to my elbows in tomatoes, sauce, and salsa which havenít left much time to write here. Iíve given away zucchini and cucumbers to such an extent that Iíve been tempted to sneak them on neighborsí porches. This is a good problem to have considering that this could have been a dismal harvest.
Like most people, I like to grumble about the weather. I would love to think that the extreme temperatures and drought we endured was a fluke, but my fear is that it is not. Iím an optimist by nature, but I am also developing strategies to cope in case this is no fluke and is the new normal. Gardening is in my blood, and I will persevere regardless of what nature throws our way. Climate change is but one more reason to grow fruits and vegetables close to home; back and front yards are perfect settings!