The planting is done in Donnie’s garden. Now comes the weeks of suckering, stringing, weeding, tilling, spraying and fighting the birds and animals that seek a free meal.

I finally finished planting my gardens on May 20.

The early growing season was great, cool and cloudy with ample rain. It was almost like Salinas, Calif., weather, perfect for cabbage, broccoli and lettuce.

All my early crops are doing well—with the exception of the peas that were nibbled on by groundhogs.

Getting my summer crops going, however, has been a struggle. First, it was too wet and cold to plant tomatoes and when I finally got them in the ground, there came two weeks of dry weather, which forced me to irrigate to get the roots started.

Then we had that week of cool, cloudy weather when high temperatures barely made it to 60 degrees. Tomatoes do not grow under such conditions.

The cool temperatures were bad enough, but during this same week there was that incessant wind with gusts of 40 mph or higher. I had to replace some tomatoes that were blown over and snapped off.

That week of wind and dampness also put me behind in my spraying. Cutworms and Colorado potato beetles just love newly planted tomatoes. Luckily, it was too cold for even these pests to proliferate.

My green beans, planted the day before the last frost and freeze (May 10) came up in less than a week. There was just enough moisture and warmth in the ground for them to germinate, and I got a good stand.

My corn is up, too, but I had to replant one section of that. For some reason, one area just did not germinate.

Most years, I have all my late crops in the ground by the end of April, but that was not possible this time around. It was just too wet. In fact, we had measurable rain 23 out of the 40 days between April 1 and May 10.

Even if it had been drier, I would not have planted tomatoes because we flirted with freezing and frost right up until the middle of May.

My neighbor lost all his tomato plants when the temperature dipped to 32 degrees on May 10 and, according to a friend at the local seed store, so did many others. Early tomatoes are great, but they won’t grow on dead vines.

That 32-degree morning burned the tops of my potatoes, too, which were just forming blooms. They came back out, of course (just the top, tender leaves were damaged), but they never bloomed.

Still, I should have one of my best potato crops in years. I pulled up one Red Pontiac vine on May 23 and got 18 potatoes, several almost the size of tennis balls, out of the dirt. They were delicious.

I’ve been eating new onions for several weeks and I have found that dwarf kale is tenderer than its larger counterpart, which I usually plant. A rabbit nibbled on one end of the patch, but did not do much damage.

Rabbits, which haven’t bothered my garden in years before this season, destroyed my first cabbage planting and I finally had to cover the row with some old chicken wire until the plants gained some size. Now, the heads are forming and they should be ready for the table in three or four weeks.

My peas looked like they were not growing for the longest time and I found out why. One day I walked out and there was a groundhog, which had a hole across the fence, nibbling on them.

Nothing eats peas, so I was surprised when this woodchuck, which had plenty of sweet clover in the neighbor’s field, decided to dine in my garden. Well, two groundhogs from that hole are now in woodchuck heaven and my peas have bloomed and formed pods. I’ll still probably only get half a crop.

This seems to be a year of pestilence. Groundhogs, rabbits and crows have already done damage and there have been deer tracks in the watermelon patch. Worse yet, several bears have been roaming the neighborhood just waiting for my corn crop in July. A shotgun has been a primary tool in my garden arsenal so far this year.

The planting is done and the tomatoes are staked. Now comes the weeks of suckering, stringing, weeding, tilling, spraying and fighting the birds and animals that seek a free meal.

Then there is the worrying about wind and hail and flooding rains.

Gardening is not for the faint of heart or the lazy.

Donnie Johnston: djohn40330@aol.com

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