Happy Solstice y’all!
Today for Solstice we got rain, a lovely gift because along with heat we’ve also been having a drought. The drought is so bad that the Mississippi River, the main source of water for the Twin Cities, is just a few inches above its lowest recorded level in 1976. The rain is not enough to replenish the soil and rivers. We need days of soaking rain and that is not going to happen. We might get a little rain on Thursday later in the week but the long term forecast continues dry with another heatwave looming on the horizon.
My garden is not irrigated. I have three rain barrels, the third added just this spring. I almost didn’t get that third barrel because for the past three summers it’s rained so regularly that I rarely needed to use the stored water. This year has been altogether different.
The barrels are empty and we have been using gray water from dishwashing and the shower and the basement dehumidifier as well as fresh water from the tap to preserve as much of the garden as we can. Tonight when James gets home from work, we will be setting up the air conditioner condenser draining tube that runs out into the basement laundry sink to drain into a 5 gallon bucket instead (just got that brilliant idea from someone on Facebook, social media is not 100% horrible).
My strawberry bed is fried and even the Jerusalem artichokes are toppling over. The fruits trees are letting go of their unripe fruit. The radishes have stopped growing altogether. The various beans are having a mixed go of it. The corn has been doing really well as is the tomato and ground cherry. The pumpkins are trying to make a go of it as is the zucchini but the big squash leaves need lots of water and in the heat of the afternoon they look dreadful.
We put out a dish of water on our deck because the squirrels keep climbing into the empty watering cans we leave there looking for a drink. And another rabbit I am going to dub Bunnicula, has found ki’s way into the garden and is taking out the cornstalks for their water content. Some internet searching found that people had good luck with fake snakes or even dark lengths of hose that look like snakes.
I added the reptiles throughout the garden yesterday. This morning I discovered Bunnicula had dug a hole under the fence right next to the one I had plugged up and took down two stalks of corn right by the belt snake. Clearly Bunnicula is a wascally wabbit! I plugged up the new hole in the fence. I moved the belt snake and relocated an alligator. Will this be enough? Time will tell.
In the meantime, I have been mulching the corn and beans and squash with straw. It took me ages to realize I should do this because when rain is profligate, straw mulch is a recipe for mold and slugs, so it is not something I generally do. I am also allowing the edible garden “weeds”—wood sorrel, purslane, some lambs quarters, and the feral rocket/arugula—to grow anywhere they want to to shade the soil and provide a living mulch that I can also eat.
In this process I am also gaining a better understanding of the garden’s microclimates and I have definitely discovered where the hottest part of the garden is. The Jacob’s cattle and Akira beans are growing in part of it and they are not liking it one bit. Some of the poor plants have been scorched. The black-eyed peas are growing in another bit of the hottest part of the garden and they are absolutely loving it.
The cabbage and kohlrabi turned out to be in a too warm bed. The cabbage is all fried and dead and there are a few stunted kohlrabi barely hanging on. The peas were in the perfect place but were taken out by rabbit number one who was vanquished with a barking James wielding a spray bottle of vinegar. Two of them have managed to make a comeback. But next year I will plant them in the same place and put cabbage in the bed along with them and see how that goes. Maybe I will get myself some better snakes—how can I convince some garter or corn snakes to move in?—to keep the rabbits out because I don’t have enough wherewithal to build cages around everything.
Trying to make the best of a bad situation. There is always something to learn.
I keep having dreams that at some point in the next couple of weeks the weather pattern will change and the rains will come and by mid to late July everything will be lush and green and happy instead of wilted and suffering. In the meantime, I move through the garden with a watering can offering the bare minimum of sustenance while whispering to my plant kin to please not give up, to hold on just a little bit longer, the rain will come, I had dreams.
I hope the dreams come true.