Sun flares, terrible heat and powerful storms - this is what I had to deal with all summer, like most of the gardeners on earth. Watering was a life and death issue for my garden, so I kept on watering all summer long, which helped my plants and vegetables to survive. But not all have survived and I'm pretty sad to see that my vegetable harvest is much smaller than I expected.
I like to water my garden, but this summer I've had more than enough of it! I can count on one hand the days when I could sleep in this summer. Everyday I had to wake up as early as I could - before sunrise, if possible - so I could have enough time to water before the sun started to burn everything. Some days the heat was so terrible that I had to water for a few hours continously, so the plants could survive during the day. Yet, another problem occured: the water in the well started to drop down and after a few hours of continous watering it wouldn't be clear anymore. It was impossible to use it, neither for drinking or cooking, nor for shower or laundry; not to mention it could have burned the water pump if the small sand particles from the bottom of the well had entered inside it. That made me split watering in two sessions, one in the morning and another one in the evening. This way the water in the well wouldn't get churned up and it could settle down during the break between waterings. I also chose not to water the lawn too much because it is drought resistant anyway, so it doesn't need as much water. Although I wasn't too happy having an almost dry lawn, I had to leave it like that in order to save the vegetables and the flowers. Deep soil cracks appeared in the lawn due to the drought, especially near the concrete fence and around the rocks buried in the lawn.
I have been watering a lot, yet it wasn't enough during the days with very high temperatures in July and August. The vegetables suffered the most. Some of the tomatoes and bell peppers had blossom-end rot from the irregular watering during the drought and from the low calcium levels in our soil. It seems that sometimes I watered too much and sometimes not enough, especially on the hottest days. This caused some rotten spots on the bottom of the tomatoes and peppers. Some of these tomatoes in the picture were also pinched by the birds, but I didn't mind sharing with them.
The beans started to grow curly and small, but still delicious. Only I had to pick them up earlier, before they turned yellow, so they could be fresh, without strings. Cucumbers grew well if watered enough, but they were sour on the stem end. Onions didn't grow too big, same as garlic (which, by the way, is still in the ground in September). Sunflowers on the field remained small, compared to last year's crop and I saw some farmers destroying the plants in July when it became clear that the crop was compromised. My sunflowers grew smaller than usual too, but they grew enough for feeding the birds and had lots of seeds on their heads. Cabbage, carrots, eggplant, cauliflower and broccoli didn't even pop out from seeds in spring, so no crop of those this fall.
The flowers have survived the heat and drought too, but they grew slowly. The roses stopped blooming starting July until the end of August, during the days with very high temperatures. My Magnolia's leaves got burned in the hottest day of this summer, but I'm happy the plant didn't die. Zinnias, coreopsis and marigolds, which I started from seeds in the garden, are in full bloom in September like they should have been in August. However, it's a miracle they've even popped out from seeds with the drought we've experienced.
All was relatively well in the garden until it rained in August, after two months of drought. I was happy for the rain, as everyone else, but the rain turned out to be bad for the crops, especially for the tomatoes. It rained for three days and after that I had lots of ripe tomatoes to pick up from the garden. But what do you know, they were almost all cracked! It seems that the cold and abundant rain can cause cracking on the tomatoes' epidermis.
After a week or so, fruitworms appeared inside many of the ripe tomatoes and in some of the peppers too. Although I don't usually spray the vegetables with insecticide, I had to do it this time in order to get rid of the yucky worms. Spraying worked and new blooms appeared on the tomato plants, while the worms dissapeared after a while. But, boy, I had to throw away so many good, ripe tomatoes which were infested with fruitworms! Had I been wiser and not that old and forgetful, I would have remembered what I learned (and did!) last year about planting parsley between the tomato plants. Parsley's scent attracts the wasps who can kill the fruitworms. Wasps are laying eggs on the back of the fruitworm. Larvae feed on the inside of the fruitworm until they pupate. When coming out of the cocoon the wasps will kill the fruitworm.  Hornworms are other pests which can attack tomatoes and peppers, but I didn't find any of those yet in my garden. They are also killed by wasps. Here you can see pictures of the hornworm catterpilar with wasp eggs on it.
Fruitworms are feeding inside the tomato or pepper which gets rotten and moist. Rain also brought a fungus on my tomatoes which damaged lots of fruits, causing the tomato blight disease. A few tomatoes rotted in just three days of rain. Rain also caused leaf curl on tomato plants.
Like any other gardener, I'm always hoping to have a good vegetable harvest from my garden in the fall. But not this year! If we have more warm, sunny days this fall, more tomatoes will grow from the new blooms; sweet and bell peppers will ripen as they've already started and cucumbers will grow at least a few more, just for a salad or two. But I am thankful for what I've already harvested, because from my small vegetable garden I had more than enough vegetables to feed my whole family and to give to my friends too. I did't have enough for canning, but I had tomatoes everyday, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Green, red and yellow tomatoes together with the bell peppers, cucumbers and onions, all from my garden, made my salads so delicious and appetizing. My little grandson Nicholas loved all tomatoes, especially the cherry species, which we always had for breakfast.
If I could only have enough fall tomatoes for canning them as pickles, that would be great and unexpected after this drought, but who knows what more the weather will bring us? More drought is forecasted during the fall months, but the gardening season is coming to an end. It's the last month when something can still grow, then all will be harvested. Starting in October I'm canning pickled sweet peppers and cucumbers, then the cabbage for making sauerkraut. I'll have to buy all from the market, except for a few sweet peppers which I hope will be healthy until harvesting time. In the flower beds, asters are about to bloom and mums will start soon. Fall is a beautiful season and has its colors, but it also brings rain and cold, usually. I think I'll try a Rain Dance, if it won't start raining soon. Even if the crops are already harvested, next year's crops are about to get started and they need moisture. Come on, rain!