The growing season of 2023 is over. It won’t be missed.

I won’t repeat the statistics of the season except to say there was too much rain, especially on weekends, and high temperatures were rare. As a result, our production of classic late-season vegetables was way down.

This pepper is trying hard to turn red. Alas, like much else in the garden, it did not get enough sun or heat this year. Photo by Tom Atwell

My wife, Nancy, wanted me to grow a lot of sweet, red peppers this year so she could freeze them for cooking over the winter. I have harvested two fully red peppers this year. With luck, a lot of the green peppers on the plants may turn red before the first frost hits. And the green peppers are edible, if not as sweet.

Tomato production was down as well. We had an adequate number of bite-sized tomatoes, but the slicers were slow to ripen. Many got bruised or bitten and rotted on the vine before they ripened. We probably got a dozen large tomatoes, from six plants, all season.

We did have some successes. I grew two varieties of haricot vert, the long, thin French green beans that we enjoyed on a cruise last winter. Without labels, I couldn’t tell the two varieties we grew, Rolande and Maxibel, apart. I will do succession plantings next year, because if not picked at just the right time, the beans get too large, turning tough rather than crispy-crunchy.

Zucchinis were plentiful until about mid-August, and then quit. We were OK, though, because that is when the yellow summer squash started producing. I have no idea why that happened. We had a good crop of butternut squash, a storing variety, and some pie pumpkins.


Peas produced fairly well, but they did not have a banner year. We had all the carrots we wanted and will have some to store for the winter. And the production of potatoes was down, as I think it was for the commercial farmers, also.

As always, I am glad that my vegetable gardening is done for pleasure (and to give me things to write about) rather than to provide an income for a family.

I accidentally found out that the heavy rain that reduced our vegetable crop did not hurt us financially. We have a sub-meter on the outdoor faucet I use for watering the gardens, which means that we pay for the water, but not sewage-treatment fees for that water. Sometime during the winter, the Portland Water District stopped getting signals from the sub-meter, which tells them how much water went through that faucet.

I think I have it fixed, but I am not sure because I hauled hose and ran the sprinklers only twice all year, both times in May, and only on the vegetable garden. I have yet to use the faucet since fixing the sub-meter. The water district employee who called me said that the sub-meter saved us more than $200 in sewer fees during 2022, when I ran our sprinklers a lot. That means we spent more than $200 on irrigation water in 2022. A person can buy a lot of vegetables with that kind of money.

We produced more blueberries than ever, because we covered the bushes with a fine mesh netting so we could get them rather than the birds. Raspberries were average, and our strawberry production was less than usual.

For our flowers, it was a mixed year. The gladioli got damaged by thrips and did not produce well. After I dug up the bulbs this fall, I soaked them for three days in a Lysol solution and then dried them for a week before storage. I hope it works.


The dahlias have been wonderful, although they showed up later than normal – around late July. The peonies we planted two years ago to replace the bird’s nest spruce that had been blocking our family room windows produced a few blossoms, not bad for their second year of flowering. We probably won’t get a lot of blossoms for a couple more years.

The self-seeded plants in the vegetable garden produced lots of flowers. The poppies were plentiful, followed by black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne’s lace, asters of several varieties, and even a little goldenrod. The forgotten seeds that I planted in midsummer did better than expected, with nasturtiums and zinnias blooming well, but the tithonia doing nothing.

Rhododendrons and azaleas blossomed, but not as plentifully as usual, and the lilacs seemed to suffer from the wet weather. That was offset by an excellent year for the mountain laurel, or Kalmia, plants.

A beautiful but lonesome ‘Endless Summer’ blossom. Photo by Tom Atwell

Hydrangeas depended on the variety. The paniculata and arborescens varieties bloomed prolifically and were still beautiful in late October. The macrophylla species, however, marketed as “Endless Summer,” were not good. Those blossoms on our two plants were superb, huge and a brilliant blue. The only problem? The bushes produced just one blossom each.

While I was visiting Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens over the summer, my conversation with the director of horticulture strayed to hydrangeas. He said that he and Michael Dirr, who developed “Endless Summer,’” are friends and that they jokingly called the plant “Endless Bummer.” In some ways, you could say that about the whole summer.

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

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