By Peter Heffelfinger
June 22, 2020
It has been a wet June, which has caused germination problems in some crops, but has allowed others, if planted at the right time, to thrive. I think of it as being like surfing: sometimes you catch the wave and sometimes the wave catches you.
I usually plant corn on June 1st, waiting for warm soil and settled weather. My garden site is generally damp and chilly all spring, being adjacent to a year round stream and cooled by onshore breezes. In past years, I’ve noted that other early bird gardeners who plant in mid-May often suffer from rotted seed and have to replant. Better to wait, plant successfully once and have a good harvest even if a week or two later in the season.
This year, having heard that one nearby gardener already had 4-inch high corn by late May, I succumbed to competitive garden envy and jumped the gun by planting seed on a sunny and warm May 28th. With our summers getting longer and warmer, all would be fine. Of course we soon had heavy rain and my corn barely came up. So I replanted a few weeks later. And then a second heavy rain ensued. So, finally by the last day of spring I spot-seeded a third time in between the few hardy sprouts that had managed to come up previously, hoping that I might get a small, mixed batch of corn by mid-September. Come nightfall, rain again. Wipe out, I’m sure. Now, I don’t expect anything like my usual stands of standard yellow, bi-color, and tall white corn. The early May corn planters got to ride the June waves of rain. Knee-high corn by the 14th of July.
But some other crops, planted on schedule in early spring, got a strong push from the wet weather. By mid-May the brassicas were pushing up tight against the tops of their floating row covers: broccoli, green and red cabbages, as well as Brussels Sprouts and early cauliflower. The Sugar Snap and oriental snow peas also took off in the cool weather. The tall snow peas have already reached the top of their 8-foot fencing and will need higher supports, not to mention a ladder for harvesting. The winter squash vines are filling in the gaps between their spaced hills, and the pole beans are starting to climb their trellis. Not to forget the abundant lettuces. So I shouldn’t complain. Nice to catch the wave when it comes.
While putting in tomato plant supports in my hoop house this past weekend I suddenly heard a very insistent hum, a loud buzzing of insects. Looking out to the nearby bee hives I saw a swirling, vertical cone of ascending bees getting larger and further away from their ground level boxes. The Queen Bee was leaving and taking all her workers with her. Fortunately the swarm settled into the overgrown vines on a nearby power pole instead of disappearing. The bees, now in a tight protective ball around the Queen, were still there when the beekeeper arrived an hour later. With a large bucket on the end of a long pole, he knocked groups of the bees into the bucket, and deposited the angry hummers into a large box on the ground. He hoped to catch the Queen, but she and her reduced retinue escaped. The next day the captured bees were given a new queen in a new hive. I hope the Queens who stayed home will continue to send out their pollen gathering workers to the flowering vegetables in the garden. We need the bees.