Ellen Althoff works in her basement garden. After a very rainy June, she opted to move her plants inside after creating an indoor growing space. Credit: Courtesy of Ellen Althoff.

It didn’t take Ellen Althoff long to determine if she wanted any home-grown vegetables this summer, drastic action was needed. It’s her second year gardening in Maine and like so many other growers around the state, she found herself up against one of the wettest Junes on record.

After watching her stunted heirloom tomato and pepper plants get more and more waterlogged, she decided the only course of action was to get them out of the rain.

That’s when turned her basement into an indoor growing operation.

“I was seeing no growth in the tomatoes and they were slowly just dwindling off,” she said. “The peppers were just half the size they normally should have been and just stopped growing.”

Some online research, rearranging some tables and the purchase of a set of plant grow lights later, she relocated her garden. The plants were transplanted into pots.

“I brought in half the tomatoes and peppers,” Althoff said. “We’re calling it an experiment.”

One of the wettest Junes on record left Ellen Althoff’s garden struggling. So she decided to move things into her basement. Credit: Courtesy of Ellen Althoff.

She already had stackable tables she used for starting seeds — including 30 heirloom tomato plants— on her sunporch, so those were moved into the basement. She also set up regular household lights she had on hand along with the pair of grow lights each the size of a dinner plate to provide the energy needed for photosynthesis.

“I can change the settings on those grow lights based on the plants’ stages of growth,” Althoff said. “The lights even change color but I am really still learning how they work.”

Althoff might still be in the learning stage, but whatever she’s doing appears to be working. Two weeks into her indoor growing experiment the inside tomato plants are already double the size of those left outdoors.

“Those tomatoes I really wanted to save,” she said. “They are heirlooms that will produce gorgeous tomatoes in colors of purples, reds and oranges and I was not going to go a summer without having them.”

All in all, Althoff is quite pleased with her response to the soggy conditions.

“It was all a last minute decision because it was either lose the crops or drastic measures needed to happen,” she said. “I have the room in my basement, so it worked out nicely.”

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.