If you live anywhere near salt water on the coast of Maine, you are probably getting ready to put in a garden. Because of the pandemic, gardens sound like a good investment, causing seed sales to soar this spring. As everyone knows, when it’s close to the Fourth of July and the days are shorter and winter is approaching, our soil is finally warm enough for spring planting. Stick your hand in brown dirt and it is warm – and powder dry.

Although I planted my first garden shortly after the invasion of Poland, like any old Maine man I feel good if I can get my garden in by Memorial Day – even though I know that the ground in my backyard is still too cold for little plants to eagerly spring forth.

Yes, one or two things might peep from beneath the surface long enough to check things out, but they stop right there and you can almost hear them say, “Who are you kidding?” Every year it’s the same: They either turn brown or are eaten by bugs before they can even get a start. Kerry in Waldoboro said she lost her garden to frost.

Every day I go out several times to see how things are coming along. I count how many cucumbers and radishes are up. Forget the carrots.

Nothing changes. Even the brilliant squash sets I got from Jay Cook are now bearing a wistful countenance and want to go back to the comfort of his hothouse.

My friend Michael wrote on Facebook: “I knew an old-timer who scoffed at people who put in their gardens early and watched them ‘shiver with cold feet.’ ” No one said it better.


For years my brother famously planted around the Fourth of July. And by the end of August his garden was just as far along as mine planted in the middle of May.

Yes. You can put in your garden around May 20 and then boast around town about being more virtuous and organized than your neighbor, who has six small children and works an 8-to-5 job. But here on the coast of Maine you can’t fool old Mother Nature and it’s no use to try.

Rhubarb comes up early and thrives in May. Friends ask me for my secret for having rhubarb in September. Start watering it at night before Memorial Day. Rhubarb thrives when drenched with a lot of cold water. When rhubarb dries out, the leaves get yellow and the stalks are flaccid and useless.

The last of May is often dry on the coast of Maine, but I never seem to be ready for it. It’s a good thing I got my watering system set up on Tuesday because on Wednesday it rained so hard I couldn’t set foot outside.

The blueberries are doing exceptionally well, but just beside the road. In the 50 years I’ve owned this farm, since buying it from one of Mother’s third cousins, the blueberries have gone downhill. Forty years ago my old neighbor, Albert Smalley, told me that he remembered seeing pure blue right up over the hill. Burning every other year and wringing my hands hasn’t helped. Upon studying the situation this week, I concluded that the road salt in the slush that gets splattered by passing cars has improved the blueberries, even as it seems to turn pine trees brown.

I asked a friend at MOFGA about blueberries. He told me that sulfur, which he said is available from FedCo, helps blueberries by discouraging weeds. He also said that the ant friends who live in eight or 10 huge hills in the field are good for blueberries. In recent years I wondered why I didn’t ask more questions about these things 65 years ago. And then I realized that when I was 20 I already knew everything.


I had almost finished this report on the farm for you when I heard my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, cry out. It must have been a wicked scream because even with hearing aids I don’t hear much of anything.

You should understand that we both need occasional help from each other and that I often carry my phone outside to be sure we are in touch.

Thinking that she might have fallen, I rushed upstairs to find her standing by her bathroom sink.

“Did you shout?”

“No. It was the ambulance going by.”

This is the second time this week that this has happened.

God help any man who can’t tell the difference between his wife’s sweet voice and the siren on an ambulance.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:


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