Atlanta, like many towns in the US, has been suffering from unseasonably high temperatures. Earth-baking, livestock-killing, water-evaporating heat that became more dangerous by a non-stop wind that cracked the soil and seared our skin. We have suffered this summer, worried, fretted and some of us have prayed for relief from the oppressive heat.
Thus far in the growing season, Billy’s farm has been blessed with a bountiful harvest. Blessed with a plethora of beans, corn, and tomatoes ripening on the vine. Unfortunately, as the harvest approached, temperatures rose. Beans died on the vine, tomatoes turned white and burned beneath the sun, and, if the truth be told, Billy Albertson got a little nervous.
“That’s the last of the water,” he said with a sigh, referring to one of six rain barrels situated sporadically throughout his property. “And your maders need watering.”
Shrugging off his concern I said, “Don’t worry about my tomatoes. They’ll be fine.”
Meteorologists called for rain, but Mother Nature was bent on showing us who is boss. Not only did she withhold the rain, she cranked up the temps to a dangerous 106 degrees.
The corn curled and turned brown. Billy and I worried. No rain came.
“Bring on the rain,” Billy said as I stopped by to pick my tomatoes and check out the desiccation status of my corn.
Overhead the clouds were darkening and dipping lower, giving us hope. An hour later, heaven opened and gifted us with a downpour.
Like most children, I love mud puddles. Seeing a collection of water triggers something inside of me. I ride my bike through them, smiling at the splash…squish, tilting my head back as tiny droplets splash against my leg and stain my socks. This morning as the mud puddles in my yard began to disappear I took a stroll through my garden, smiling at the gift of glorious rain.
Though many may curse the rain for making their daily commute a bear, or ruining their planned activities, when I step outside I see that the earth is actually smiling. Tree frogs sing and birds bathe with wild abandon. Even immature tomatoes cling to drops of moisture, unwilling to release the moisture into the earth.
Rain. Blessed rain has finally arrived. Drops that replenished my red-neck rain reclamation system. Most parents will recognize the purple bucket. What once housed stuffed animals, now sits beneath the eve of the house and collects water.
When my grandmother was alive I remember her declaring the arrival of “dog days,” meaning the rainy season which arrives during the middle of summer. This season of hope is gifted to us, a treasure for weary gardeners that signal it’s time to rest up before fall planting.
Those with pitiful looking tomato plants, take comfort. Tomatoes will bear fruit up until frost. Walk bravely into the garden with a pair of scissors and lop them off at the top. This “trimming” process actually stimulates new growth. You can also root the trimmings. Refer to this blog posting to learn how. For those wanting to plant a late crop of beans and “winter greens,” the Farmer’s Almanac reports July 24-27 are the best dates to plant above ground crops. Root crops (turnips, radish, beets, and potatoes) can be planted, July 10, 13, 14, 17 and 18.
Let us be thankful for the rain and pray for those farmers who are suffering without any. Until next time, remember to keep those hands dirty.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes and