gardening in climate-changing times

July 2. My strategy in these climate-changing times is to try growing a lot of everything. Something will thrive – you just can’t know what ahead of time. We started peppers and cukes and melons on heat mats in April. When we planted the stout little plants in the hoophouses in May the weather was so cold the youngsters just sat there mortified, not daring to grow a single leaf. Most of them just curled up and died. Fortunately we also planted peas and lettuces that have been happy with the unseasonable cold. Now that summer weather is here – July 1st marked the start of a projected succession of 95-degree-days – the remaining peppers are unfolding from their cowering stance, all the heat-loving plants are looking happy – and lettuces are beginning to bolt, peas have probably flowered their last.

merlot?The pea that produced the most in its short season was Blizzard, a snow pea from Alaska. These peas were so sweet and tender they never made it to a sauté pan; we munched the whole crop raw. Also in this extended cool season we grew the reddest lettuce I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been trying them out for a few years now). It’s called Merlot, and if I can get on top of the wild lettuce weeding by the time it flowers I’ll save seed.

Every gardening year has always been unique, with its own challenges of weather or pests and its particular star crops that do better than all the rest. But lets face it, from here on out conditions will be more erratic, with wider and more sudden swings between extremes that we may never have experienced. Tornados? Floods? We had snow in Laytonville on May 15 this year.

My plan is to keep starting plants for a wide range of conditions. And appreciate every plant that successfully navigates whatever weird weather comes to pass. Right now I’m appreciating tomatoes. They were started at the same time as the peppers, planted out in the soggy cold—and they sat out the dreary weather stoically, not growing but not succumbing either. Every slightly warm day they’d grow a little, and now they’re galloping along. (For seed this year, we’ll have Cherokee Chocolate, Jaune Flamme, and Lillian’s Yellow).