One might easily reason that those of us who live along the shore do so only because our highest priorities are those activities which involve playing in or on the water. There is no denying water and being near water is part of the essence of coastal life.
However, many of us who live here or have moved here do many of the same things that we did in other places. That should surprise no one since the Crystal Coast unlike some beach areas is a permanent home to many people. Life goes on here in the winter.
When we lived in Canada, we gardened both on our farm and when we moved to the city. Years later as we lived on the mountaintop near Roanoke, Virginia, I was very serious about growing tomatoes. When I moved to the coast, I did not give up growing tomatoes. Actually I started growing more tomatoes since our coastal area is a better place to garden. Certainly we do not have the deer problem that made growing tomatoes in the hills around Roanoke almost impossible without a fence.
This is actually a great area in which to garden. I have even written about gardening in December here on the coast. Even more impressive I have picked a tomato off one of our vines as late as December 19 and as early as May 24. That does not even count the cherry tomato that I dug up from our front yard and put in a pot in our unheated garage. We got a handful of January tomatoes off of it.
This year we were almost overwhelmed by lettuce in March and April. In spite of the small space we have for gardening our spring garden brought us many wonderful treats including peas, sugar snap peas, spring onions, broccoli, green beans and a token cabbage. If you count the rutabagas that we harvest in January or February, we have not missed a month harvesting something for the last couple of years.
Starting with our June 4, 2015 tomato, this summer has also produced a nice harvest of tomatoes of ever hue and size and even more beans. We also harvested garlic and some peppers. Our Swiss Chard has been growing continuously since late summer last year. My wife has already made pesto from our basil.
We have been living mostly full time at the coast since the fall of 2006, but it has taken us a long time to really figure out coastal gardening. Perhaps we were handicapped by all years when we gardened in Canada and prayed for warmth to ripen our tomatoes which we harvested starting in early August if we were lucky. Here on the coast we sometime have to shade our tomatoes from the heat. Actually the tomatoes that we count on in August do not even get afternoon sun.
We had wonderful gardens in Canada but we were usually short of heat especially when we lived on the Nova Scotia shore. In New Brunswick we had a few first week of June last frosts followed by a first frost by the middle of September. Once while we were living in Nova Scotia, we got hit by a September snowstorm that took out the power for a week.
The secret to successful gardening at the coast is to work with the weather not against it. Since our home is on the water, it is not unusual for us to not have a frost until the first or second week of November. Even then sometimes the back of our property which is closest to the water does not get the frost. Often in the spring the area closest to the water is most vulnerable to frost because the water is cold. However, in the fall our waters are often very warm even into December so the areas closest to the water are often frost free. Last year we got a great picking of beans in mid-November. Usually we eat lettuce from the garden in February but the cold weather of 2015 pushed our lettuce into March this year.
This year I planted tomato seeds on Janurary 15, April 15, and July 1. We put tomatoes in the ground as early as March 15 and as late as July 9 and we are not done. The tiny seedling that are growing in the garage will go into the ground sometime in early August. In late August we will plant more beans and by October I will be planting broccoli and lettuce plants that I grow from seeds.
With luck we will have another year when we harvest things from the garden twelve months out of the year and this year I might get that Christmas tomato. If you are really into tomatoes my Thoughts on Tomatoes post and my 2011 Tomato Season recap might be of interest. Growing things is just part of living in the South and our coastal paradise just happens to be a particularly nice place to do it.