Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rain and More Rain

If you are gardening in the South and have yet to bring in a perfect, red tomato, take heart! I have heard from more than one gardener who said that the past couple of days of sunshine helped the green tomatoes on their plants make it to the blushing stage, and they are hoping to harvest one or more actual, ripe tomatoes soon.

Of course, yesterday morning the thermometer on my front porch was showing a temperature of 59 degrees F, and this morning it is raining, yet again. The unusual weather, both cool and wet, that has been ongoing for months, delayed planting in the spring and has caused a lot of trouble in our summer gardens.

As bad as things are for the gardeners, though, they are much worse for the farmers whose livelihoods depend on the success of their crops. Our grocery store shelves depend on them, too!

An article in the New York Times, "With Too Much Rain in the South, Too Little Produce on the Shelves," points out that much of the Southern U.S. has received WAY more rain than usual. Georgia is up by about 34%, and other states aren't far behind.

The vegetables that aren't doing well in gardens are also not doing well on farms. Fruits either explode in the rain or ripen with a bland flavor. Fields are a muddy mess that can't be accessed with the usual heavy equipment. Fertilizers and pesticides can't be deployed because they are spread by some of that heavy equipment. When those are successfully applied to the fields, it rains again.

One of my friends subscribes to a CSA -- she gets a box of vegetables each week from her local farmers, a husband and wife team up in Rockmart, GA, who have been hit hard by the weather. They had to replant some crops more than once in spring (seeds washed away in heavy rains), and the wet weather has brought enough other problems (disease, ripening issues) that they have really struggled to provide vegetables to their share subscribers. My friend says that the farm had to let go more than half of its subscribers, and the website carries a note that the farm won't be offering a fall CSA due to the excessive rain. It seems unlikely that the farmers will be making anything like "a living" this year from the little farm.

Meanwhile, Eastern Australia probably has just had its hottest July ever, and people in Shanghai are dying of heatstroke from "unprecedented summer heat."  Closer to home, "Anchorage has set a record for the most consecutive days over 70 degrees during this unusually warm summer."

People around here like to say, "if you don't like the weather, just wait a minute..." but the weather doesn't seem to be turning on a dime these days. According to Jeff Crouch, a climatologist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. who was quoted in the top-linked New York Times article, “Whenever we get in a pattern like this, we kind of stay in the status quo,” he said. “When we’re hot and dry, we stay hot and dry. When we’re wet, we stay wet.” 

I'm just about resigned to more of the same - rain and more rain. Let's hope my garden is up to it, too!

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