You are currently viewing Looking back as well as toward the future

Looking back as well as toward the future

In July the garden never looked so green, thanks to a month of record rainfall that proved to be a curse more than a gift.

2021 proved to be a record breaking year wherever one gardens. While gardeners are notorious about complaining about the weather 2021 proved to be extraordinary across much of the planet. Usually I brush off little brushes with irregular weather – after all, I live and garden in New England – but last year proved to be noteworthy in many ways.

While the garden suffered with record breaking weather container plants faired a bit better particularly the standard fuchsias that I began training last year. Upright plants with pendant blooms kept both us and hummingbirds happy.

Without going into great detail, for us, June brought record-breaking heat as it did across much of the US and along with it, drought, which continued from the previous year. My sweet pea plants seemed to suffer right from the start, but since I had a feature article being planned for Fine Gardening magazine, hundreds of plants were set out in tidy rows in hopes of an epic photoshoot later in early July.

Sweet Pea plants set out in late April had a good start, but by late May things turned for the worse.

In late May our heat wave began, and while a few days near 90° F aren’t unusual by early June, consecutive days near or over 100° F was unheard of. In an attempt to keep the pea plants cool I placed sprinklers in the beds to cool the plants down during the hottest part of the day. Sweet peas prefer temperatures that are both consistent and cool to avoid bud drop and while I expect bud drop (yellowing buds that drop is normal in the first few weeks of June when nights are typically cool and day temps high), this time I could see that it was going to be different. Just as old gardening books advised (but I had never seen before) the water from the sprinklers basically cooked the new emerging foliage which looked as if I had dipped then in boiling water. Any buds naturally dropped off as well.

A few early sweet peas from my first picking seemed to hold promise, but this was as good as it was going to get.

By the time my date for the big photoshoot came about the weather had shifted to another record breaking cool and wet period, but the plants never recovered. A few dozen blooms arrived early in late June, but by July the weather changed for what seemed like a welcome wet period with cool temperatures, but there can be too much of a good thing. By the third week of July we had 24″ of rain and one sunny day. Typically this would be ideal sweet pea weather, but it was too late. The plants never produced any more flowerbeds. I’ve been raising sweet peas since the late 1980s and this has never happened before. Out came the pea plants and in went dahlias that I had been keeping in pots until then.

a Mimulus or Monkey Flower crop seemed to be doing terrific until it all went south with the late June heatwave. In one day the plants literally cooked into a transparent mass of slime. An event I had never seen before, and naturally it happened just as the plants were reaching peak bloom, here.

By mid-summer it was clearly a record-breaking year in many ways. The never-ending rain caused another problem that I had never seen before – denitrification. The lack of oxygen in the constantly soggy soil made nitrogen unavailable to many plants. Additional fertility had to be added, but again, it was too late for most plants. Hundreds of cosmos, zinnias and other annuals that might be considered fool-proof that were sown in June and set out as healthy, robust young plants in July all stopped growing, and eventually just rotted. Tomatoes in conatainers never set fruit – out of 36 plants we had only a handful of tomatoes, although, the hot weather in June didn’t help as tomatoes won’t set fruit if temps are over 96° F. What fruit did set, seemed to succumb to blossom end rot.

Our garden helper Mike (little MIke) took on a long-overdue big project of cleaning the greenhouse. This meant removing the raised sand beds, cutting out old overgrown plants like this jasmine, and then resetting the beds with new sand and hauling new gravel in for the floor.
By late August, the greenhouse felt like a new work space again with pots organized and the benches cleaned and sterilized. Daphne, one of our Irish Terriers checks goes on rat patrol one last time before we start moving plants back in.

There were plenty of wins though, so it wasn’t all bad news in 2021. Other than tomatoes, other container plants enjoyed the wet weather (hey, I really wasn’t complaining given what California and the west was dealing with this year). Rain every other day meant that I had to fertilize pots more, but I hardly had to water anything.

Potted plants from the greenhouse that spend the summer outdoors thrived in the near-tropical rainfall. Since nutrients are flushed out of the soil more quickly, these plants required weekly applications of fertilizer.
In our gravel garden, the containers needed hardly any watering, in fact, the hoses seemed to never make it this far.
Foxgloves, now self-seeding, in the Painters Garden

Clearly I haven’t been posting much in the past year, mostly this was due to transferring what is an already content-rich blog from Blogger to a new WordPress platform, and me learning how to navigate an entirely new system. I think that I finally have it all here, and while I am still learning all of the bells and whistles (ugh- SO many bells and whistles now!), I think I can begin to run with posting. It’s just hard learning a new process after the older one became innate for me. SO please bear with me.

In the next post I will cover some of my favorite wins from last year (yes, there were plenty), and while none of them will feature squash or tomatoes, get ready for some new and exciting flowers that I never knew existed as well as some great container plants that maybe you can use this year.

Source link

Leave a Reply