While I don’t want it to return, I do have one fond memory of the drought that persisted in Maine over the past couple of years.

It’s called sunshine.

The almost constant dampness this year – whether rain, fog or hazy high humidity – has been more detrimental to our garden’s early-season vegetable production than to flower production. Worse than both is the pressure on my sinuses that never quite reaches headache stage but makes thinking things through and remembering what I am supposed to be doing more difficult. It’s a foggy brain in addition to foggy weather.

So here’s my mid-season garden report. Bear in mind, I’m writing this more than a week before you’re reading it, so who knows what Mother Nature will throw at us in the meanwhile.


The biggest disappointment was the Fourth of July. We are traditionalists and usually celebrate with salmon, peas and strawberry shortcake.


The strawberries should have been OK. We picked our first ripe berries on June 7 and were able to harvest a quart or so most days when it wasn’t too rainy to pick. With all the cool, damp weather they didn’t ripen quickly but did so consistently. For the 4th and the two days before it, though, we had a deluge. Had I bothered to pick them then, the berries would have been mushy. I didn’t bother. The following week, on July 9, we picked the last of the strawberries.

I braved the rain, however, to try picking peas. In the few shelling peas that looked large enough to pick, the peas were small, which I could live with, but also more white than green. Plants need sunshine to make chlorophyll, which turns leaves and other parts of plants green. We didn’t get enough sun for green peas.

I did manage to harvest about a pint of Sugar Snap peas —those are the ones with edible pods — so the five people at dinner that evening split those. Fortunately, the peas started bountiful production on July 10, and as I write this, the harvest has been good. They are now green, tasty and sweet.

Asparagus, I am happy to report, was prolific and tasty from the start. We had more sunshine in May had than June, so we harvested our first asparagus on May 5 and the feast continued into June.

Lettuce has also been reliable. We’ve had a continuous supply since April 27, the date of our first harvest.

Walking through the garden on July 9 after four days away, I was surprised to see about a quarter pint of ripe raspberries and many healthy green berries that we hope will ripen soon. That’s about a month sooner than usual.


We’re looking forward to blueberries. Our high-bush blueberries have more unripe berries on them than we have ever seen before. We’ve covered them with fine-mesh netting to keep the birds and other critters from eating them before we can get to them. A good blueberry crop might make up for the less-than-stellar strawberry season.

Yellow azaleas blooming in columnist Tom Atwell’s garden. The flowers were abundant this year, but the rain mean an abbreviated blossoming season. Photo by Tom Atwell


Our flowers have done better than the vegetables despite all the rain, and honestly they are more important to our happiness. We can buy all the vegetables we want to eat, but we can’t buy plants that immediately will add beauty to our yard and lift our spirits even on gloomy days. Such plants take years to produce.

The flowering bulbs came early; the very earliest was a spunky yellow crocus that braved the elements on March 19. It was followed by iris reticulata, daffodils and tulips. The early ephemerals, trout lily and bloodroot, also did well.

With the exception of the blue hydrangeas, most of our shrubs have been gorgeous. Our Annabelle, a white hydrangea, has many huge flowers this year.

Our viburnums also had a good year. Even the woods around a family camp in the suburbs of Bethel was prolific with nannyberries, Viburnum lentago, during an early-July visit.


Our serviceberry, Amelanchier, also had beautiful blossoms in early May and had bountiful berries just recently. They are edible, but we don’t find them tasty so we let the birds have them.

While the azaleas and rhododendrons were not as prolifically beautiful as normal, a few looked good, just for a shorter time than usual.

The only perennial flowers that the wet weather has damaged were the peonies and delphiniums. A couple of tall delphiniums got blown over by the wind and had to be brought inside as cut flowers – a tragedy, I know. And though the peonies looked good when young, with all the rain, some plants quickly got mushy or moldy.

As we moved into July, the daylilies started their show, and they’ve been both prolific and beautiful, with a lot of blossoms on every plant.

Even the lilies have been striking, despite a bit of damage from the red lily-leaf beetle. As the case with most of the people we hang out with, you ignore their little flaws.

I completed No Mow May, a movement across the country encouraging home owners and businesses to let the grass grow long early in the gardening season in order to help pollinators when there isn’t much for them to eat. I mowed for the first time this season on June 3, after all the violets within our lawn had stopped blooming. There are two places I still haven’t mown – a spot in the back lawn with an impressive patch of field daisies and a shady side lawn with a lot of campanula.

I might not mow those until it is time for fall raking.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at: tomatwell@me.com.

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