This pleasant, little, pastoral story about exchanging plants may sound insignificant. However, we are living in the Seattle area. Seattle is the city where it rains all the time. Mark Twain once said, “The nicest winter I’ve spent was one summer in Seattle.” Seattle is way north of most agricultural areas and we have a huge marine influence called the Pacific Ocean. Seattle is supposed to be cold and wet all year. We don’t grow watermelon in Seattle!
Watermelon is a hot weather crop. They do grow in Eastern Washington or south of Portland where the marine influence is less. Territorial Seed company has long stated in their catalog in the melon section “Not suitable for maritime Northwest.” Now, we are all adding watermelon and cantaloupe to our summer gardens. I had a wonderful melon crop last year.
My family has been farming in the Puget Sound basin for about a hundred and fifty years. Grandpa Coleman had a special micro-climate where he could ripen tomatoes. Those tomatoes were famous because getting a tomato ripe in our climate is challenging. Or well, it used to be. However, even with all his skill, special micro-climate and massive compost Grandpa never managed to grow a watermelon. Is it possible that I am a greater gardener than Grandpa? No. Something else has changed.
Gardeners and real farmers believe in climate change. We are very sensitive to how many heat units each field or growing bed receives. We are aware of the little micro-climates at the corner of the house where a tender bush might survive winter. We know where to ripen our tomatoes and where the peach tree can ripen fruit. Or we used to.
Now, I find that I can tuck the tomatoes and peppers for salsa in any place except the two shady beds, and they’ll produce by the end of August. I’ve stopped worrying about getting winter squash ripe and started worrying about growing lettuce where it won’t bolt.
At the end of the planting season, I can only hope I’ve gotten everything tucked in where it needs to be for the weather conditions we will have this year. One thing we seem to be able to count on is that this year will be hotter than ever before, just as last year set records for heat. It’s fun to be able to grow crops that would never grow for us before, so as a farmer, I have to say climate change is real.
While I like growing melons, I know that at some point the 120 acres of forest behind me will dry out and catch fire wiping out all my gardens. Climate change is a two edged sword with a sharp blade cutting both ways. We all feel it, and we will all be impacted by the change.