If you had told me just one week ago that I’d be sick and tired of rain, I would have scoffed.
“Rain? What’s THAT?!”
Here in East Tennessee, we’ve had disturbingly dry summers for a number of years now. In the past decade or so, maybe longer, the scant rain we do manage to attract between June and September each year comes in the form of sudden late day thunderstorms that pass quickly.
It’s been absolute hell for farmers to try to make a decent living with the summer heat and drought of recent years, while I think the rest of us who live around here have kind of gotten used to it as our new normal.
Summer 2012 started out with the now-expected extreme heat and dry conditions, and right up til last week, we were hitting between 95 and 105 every single day, with the sun high in a cloudless blue sky, day after day, and aside from the stultifying humidity, not a drop of moisture to be seen or felt.
With the heat on, I was watering my flowers, fruits and veggie plants twice a day, enjoying the bright, hot sun on my shoulders as I waved our garden hose around each morning and afternoon, but feeling terrible for local farmers. Quenching their plants’ and animals’ thirst in that kind of heat obviously isn’t as simple as turning on the hose.
And then, a radical and unexpected change; we woke up four or five mornings ago to a real, honest to goodness rainy day. Not passing storms, but a cool (for July in Tennessee, anyway) and gray day with unrelenting drizzle until night came. And then it happened again the next day. And the next.
I think we’ve now had four straight days with overcast skies and a constant foggy drizzle all day long. The temperature is now topping out at 20 degrees below where it was just one week ago, and the Mr. Sun hasn’t peeked thru the thick, soupy cloudbank even one time.
Today I tried to remember the last time we had a rainy stretch like this during high summer – not brief afternoon storms like we usually get, if we’re lucky, but instead this slow, steady drizzle without pause – and I honestly can’t recall it ever doing this in July for four straight days.
(If you live or have lived in East Tennessee, can you recall the last time we had a week of real rainy days in the summer?)
This is the most water my garden has gotten all season, and I’ve been a little worried that some plants might be reaching their saturation point. Surely we will have the sun back tomorrow, right? I’m ready, and I think the garden is too.
Now that the flowers and edibles are in bloom, I enjoy seeing the progress of the different beds day to day, and week to week. Gardening really helps me slow down and notice subtle changes in each and every plant. It’s good for my focus and my ability to be present where I am rather than worrying about where I was or where I’ll be. You can’t ever go back to the way a plant looked the previous week. That day is gone forever. Also, no matter how eager or impatient you are, there’s no way to speed up the growing. All you can do is observe in the moment.
Last week I shared how things were looking in my garden in the scorching heat, and here’s what’s happening after four days of non-stop drenching.
These wee, dainty little mushrooms are sprouting everywhere, just since the rain started. C says they’re “fairy mushrooms.”
I am pleased to report that after much trial and error since starting with them in April and early May, I believe I’ve gotten pretty good at babying along my gerbera daisies, which are much trickier to keep healthy and keep blooming than I realized. I think most people treat them as throwaway plants, but I’m determined to grow them year after year in my garden.
Here are a few hints I can offer anyone trying to keep gerberas blooming. Keep in mind that this is only what’s working for me, and certainly is NOT expert advice. Last, I’ve never tried to care for a potted gerbera; my experience is limited to caring for them once they’re actually growing in your garden. With that said…
1- Water at the roots, never on the leaves.
2- Water frequently but in very small quantities. Gerberas rot easily.
3 – Neatly and completely trim off any leaf that ends up drooping onto the ground due to size or poor health. If the plant’s leaves stay in contact with the ground, the plant will get sick.
4. – Trim off any leaf that looks messed up in any way – yellowing, bug holes, dry spots. Gerberas grow new leaves very quickly (lots quicker than they seem to sprout new blooms), and they don’t tolerate holding onto any leaves that aren’t looking so good. Just trim them off right near the main part of the plant.
5 – Sunshine! They need at least a few hours of pretty direct sunshine daily.
6 – If your plant looks pretty healthy but just won’t bloom, trim the leaves back until there are only a few, and then fertilize lightly once or twice a week with a nitrogen rich fertilizer. The nitrogen is the thing that makes them bloom. Be careful not to get the fertilizer on the leaves!
(If you’ve had good luck with gerberas in your garden or in containers, I’d love to hear your own hints and tips. Please share in the comments below this post. Thanks!)
Here’s one of my gerberas just starting to unfurl in the rain this morning.
And here’s one that’s in bloom now.
This is one of my trellis-grown Amish muskmelons, all trussed up in its pantyhose sling, and almost ready to pick and eat. Maybe one more week. My next door neighbor, the agriculture professor says I’ll know a melon is ready to pluck and consume when that webby looking pattern on the rind that you can see is covering pretty much the whole melon and/or the place where the melon is attached to the vine becomes very soft and weak
Here are two of my ripening Cherokee Purple” heirloom tomatoes.
I started my phlox from seeds a little bit later than I should have – mid May- but yeehaw! As you see below, my plants are finally starting to sprout actual flowers. I don’t think they like all this rain though. My phlox definitely looked happier last week in the sun and heat.
As I’ve mentioned before, I scattered some packets of “mixed annual flowers” around here and there earlier in the spring, and it’s fun being surprised by what keeps popping up as a result. These seed packs were just a smorgasbord of this and that.
This guy grew from one of those seeds. I think he may be some kind of cosmos, although he’s yet to sprout a bloom or even hint at doing so. But I kind of like the way he looks without any flower. He reminds me of a Dr. Seuss character just hanging out in the middle of my garden. The rain seems to have agreed with this guy. He’s grown several inches this week and is now an even prettier shade of green.
Ripening cherry tomatoes.
This plant may no longer be a mystery to me -I now know it’s an osteopermum (African Daisy). However, what remains a mystery is how I can get it to bloom. It stubbornly refuses to give up a single flower, even though it seems healthy and I’ve tried all the tips from African Daisy experts. If any if y’all have any ideas, please spill.
I have several of these sweet little double impatiens plants growing in my garden, and I really love them. Impatiens are notoriously thirsty and have to be kept watered and in moist soil all the time, but even so, the amount of rain we’ve gotten this week and the lack of ANY sun doesn’t seem to be doing my impatiens any favors. The blooms are looking a little waterlogged. I think I’ll deadhead this whole plant tomorrow.