That’s it, another growing season in the books… sort of. It’s the end of this year’s CSA deliveries, anyway. 20 weeks ago, as June rolled in, I was busy stressing about row covers and bed prep and how I was going to make it through another 20 weeks of CSA shares – I’m a born worrier. Although the garden is far from over yet, the threat of frost and bugs won’t keep me up anymore this year.
I’ve been growing stuff to sell now for almost 9 years and every year I think I’ve finally got it all figured out. This year proved that only an idiot would think that. Sure, every year there are new successes, but every year something also comes along to whack me down a rung or two on the ladder to farming mastery. Figure out how to control squash bugs? Here’s an army of grasshoppers to replace them. Finally build enough organic matter into the soil that it’s holding water well? Here’s precipitation of biblical proportions. Finally mitigate blossom end rot? Have some more slugs!
We had an early spring, and everything (including the goats’ breeding cycle) responded accordingly. It meant some of the seedlings I started last winter could have gone out earlier, but with the threat of frost always in the back of my mind, I didn’t take that chance with anything but the greens. Maybe next year I’ll be braver.
After the past few years bringing little to no precipitation, I thought it would be easy going this year when the rain refused to stop. While the season’s moisture definitely meant less time spent watering, the weeds grew into Triffid-like creatures that magically turned into two every time I pulled one. And the humidity! For each cabbage that thrived in the wetness another one rotted off the stem, completely enveloped in mold. The watermelons, munched down by deer at the start of the season, rallied around only to suffer later from lack of sunshine and grew stunted and strange… weirdermelons would be a more appropriate name. The cucumbers just didn’t really grow at all. One thing that DID grow well was mildew. It was everywhere.
Because I grow lots of variety, there was always something that managed to pull through – when I could find it amongst the weeds. But even now, after a couple of hard frosts, the bugs and slugs are continuing to work lacy holes into everything that remains. Usually by early August they’ve called it quits for the year.
What does this all mean for next year? I’ll be diversifying even more… choosing varieties that aren’t susceptible to mildew, that’s for sure. I’ll be stocking up on more row cover and leaving it in place longer. I’ll be hosting WWOOFers again, if Covid permits – many hands make less weeds. And for every time I think I know what I’m doing, I’ll run to the internet and research something that might challenge me in seasons to come. Confidence is not an asset when it comes to growing food.
When Mother Nature is your closest co-worker it’s definitely a humbling experience, and a reminder that as much as humans think this earth is ours to exploit, we definitely don’t have the upper hand. I’ll keep that in mind next year as I throw myself back into the dirt for another round.