October 16, 2021

Rainy spring hinders produce season this year

Off to a slow start

Shenandoah Briere/contributing photographer

Angela Wilde watches as Al Saracene of Homer grabs her a tomato plant Tuesday during the Cortland Farmers’ Market. Saracene, like many other gardeners, has had problems getting his plants in the ground and growing because of the weather.

Cortland Farmers’ Market vendors were delighted to see sunshine Tuesday during the market. They said the wet weather means the growing season is off to a bit of slow start.

“We’re way behind,” Joan Franklin of Scott said. “I have nothing in the ground yet.”

She said her garden area is just mud from all the rain and doesn’t get any time to dry out because it continues to rain.

April saw rain 19 of 30 days and rain has fallen 18 days so far in May, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Lily Chapman. However, temperatures from April 1 until May 21 have stayed right around the normal range, she said.

Between 3.7 and 4 inches of precipitation fell in April and between 4 and 5.7 inches so far in May, weather service data show, depending on which end of the county is measured. That’s typical for April but between 1.6 and 3.6 inches more than average for May.

Not that the numbers help Franklin much.

“It has to dry out enough so you can work the area,” she said.

To make up for possible losses in selling produce, Franklin said she also sells pork and eggs.

Dave Root, owner of Dave’s Veggies in Homer, is having the same problem. He’s usually transplanting plants into the ground, but because of the rain it’s too muddy. He’s also not sure they’ll even grow.

“You need that heat and that sunshine to get them to grow,” he said.

He checks the weather every day, but keeps seeing rain in the forecast.

Carla Plunkett, owner of Plunkett Farms in Virgil, is over the gloomy weather.

“Too cold, not enough sunshine and too much water,” she said.

Plunkett has invested in a high tunnel — essentially a greenhouse — to extend her growing season, meaning she can get her produce going earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall. The tunnel protects the ground from getting sopping wet from the rain and shields the plants from high winds and drying out.
However, it cannot provide its own sunlight — that’s something only Mother Nature can do.

“If you get a day like today, it’s going to warm up in there,” she said Tuesday.

She said it looks like it will get nicer out though as we head into summer, until then she’s also selling items she knitted over the winter and baked goods.

Over the next 30 days, the greater Cortland area can expect an equal chance of warmer or cooler weather, and greater or lesser precipitation, shows a forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Chris Applegate of Virgil put in around 50 2-foot-tall raised beds to counter wet lands.

“I’m planting pretty much going according to schedule but I’m seeing they’re a little bit slow because there’s not enough sunshine,” she said. “I’ve also got five greenhouses, so that also enables me to push the seasons.”

With warmer weather and no rain today, Al Saracene decided to plant his onions.

“When you’ve been at it long enough you don’t get too nervous or excited,” he said. “You just have to wait it out. It happens, it’s part of gardening.”