It’s not your imagination – July is now officially the wettest ever, surpassing 1976. This follows on the heels of the 2nd darkest June on record (which basically means we didn’t see the sun much). And this summer has not only been wetter and darker than normal, it’s also been cooler than normal.
The benefits of this much rain during a normally dry month is that no one has to spend much time watering their plots, the negatives however are many – increases in plants diseases with the damp, moist conditions; lack of sunshine to help develop warm-weather crops such as Eggplants and tomatoes; and many plants don’t like wet feet so if your plot doesn’t have good drainage you could be experiencing some wilting and rotting.
Gardening is always a challenge given New England’s all too short summers and harsh winters. Plants like Rosemary, which are a perennial below the Mason-Dixon line, behave like a very hardy annual up here – and might be able to survive a mild winter if they are swaddled in layers of straw and leaves. Most successful gardeners start their seeds indoors and transplant once the weather and soil warm up sufficiently – or they simply frequent organizations like the Southside Community Land Trust’s annual plant sale or their neighborhood nursery and buying seedlings. However one acquires the plants, they eventually go into the ground and will hopefully get 120-150 days between frosts, although the last few years the season has been getting longer and longer.
And so with such a short growing season gardeners get pretty intense about their gardening and look forward to the bounty of summer as the cornucopia of produce flows forth. Unfortunately for many this year Lettuce’s and Mesclun are among the only plants truly enjoying this kind of weather – although the raspberries and blackberries seem to be readying themselves for bumper crops this year.
We’ll see if they get enough sun to get nice and ripe. Besides plants some creatures truly enjoy this weather – slugs and snails. If you are wondering why entire leaves of plants look like Hiemlich, the caterpillar from the movie “A Bug’s Life”, had breakfast, lunch and dinner on them it’ most likely because of the slugs and snails.
The good news is that this problem is easy to solve. Take a wide shallow container – like a tuna fish can or sour cream container – and sink it in the ground and fill it with beer, doesn’t matter which type. The beer attracts the slugs and will they will drown, although they’ll drown happily. Just pick them out and refill with new beer as needed. Another effective way to control slugs is to surround your more vulnerable plants with copper strips or copper screening. This will give them a small shock from chemical reactions as they try to crawl across it. Wood ashes are another natural way to control slugs – just sprinkle them around plants so the slugs would have to crawl through them. Of course with this much rain they have to be reapplied to be effective – and although wood ashes are a welcome fertilizer – they can be too much of a good thing.
Of course the French have a great way to control snails – they just capture them, feed them on high quality greens long enough to purge their systems completely and cook them with garlic and butter. Very tasty. Chez Pascal occasionally has them on the menu and I can wholeheartedly endorse them. They really are tasty especially with some fresh bread to soak up the butter and and garlic. Sorry, I digress.
Enough about food – how are you coping with this wet weather? What plants are thriving in your garden? See you at the garden. -t