Recent rains have eased the extent and severity of drought conditions in Maine, although some of the state’s Midcoast remains parched.

Just over a month ago, on July 26, 72 percent of the state was either abnormally dry or in moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. By Aug. 2, 8 percent of the state had progressed to severe drought, in an area concentrated along the southern coast to Penobscot Bay. Moderate drought had extended to cover one-third of Maine in bands and patches as far north as Greenville in Piscataquis County.

But by Aug. 30, less than half of the state was experiencing drought conditions, with 37 percent abnormally dry and only 8 percent in moderate drought. Severe drought affected 3 percent of the state, in an area along the Midcoast from Cumberland to Knox counties, as well as small portions of Androscoggin, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties.

Jim Economou, who owns Swango Farm in Woolwich and a farm stand in West Bath, said he has seen “marked improvement” in his crops as a result of rains over the last week. But the low precipitation in July and early August had a lasting impact.

“Plants respond pretty immediately to water, but they can’t make up for when we’re behind,” he said. “You just don’t get the total yield you would over a season if they had adequate moisture.”

Economou said an inch of rain a week would be ideal. Average rainfall in neighboring Wiscasset is 3.46 inches in May, 4.47 inches in June, 3.44 inches in July and 3.08 inches in August, according to National Weather Service statistics from 1991-2020. In 2022, the weather station in Wiscasset recorded only 1.01 inches in May, 3.49 inches in June, 2.72 inches in July and 2.08 inches in August.


Swango Farm grows a mix of vegetables with the help of drip irrigation and overhead sprinklers. The watering systems don’t cover all the fields, but most years that’s not a problem, Economou said. This year the lack of irrigation is having an effect: Yields have been lower, and it was difficult to get vegetables to germinate in the dusty soil.

“In a market garden,  you’re planting succession crops; it’s not like a home garden we have planted once,” he said. “We plant cucumbers four times and lettuce mix at least that many times, so we’re trying to plant stuff in July and August. … In terms of germination rates, later carrots didn’t come up well and some late lettuce plantings also (didn’t do well).”

Though Swango Farm’s harvest has been smaller than usual, Economou said the potential economic hit has been softened by customer demand.

“We do sell to summer residents and people passing through in addition to local regular customers,” he said. “That market has been strong since the pandemic. People want to support local growers. It’s more just getting the product there and having enough stuff.”

For other businesses, the drought already has done damage for the season.

A few weeks ago, Elwyn Curtis of Freeport-based Curtis Lawn & Yard Care said he had never encountered such a dry August, when lawns were brown and crispy underfoot.

Curtis has 140 lawn mowing accounts in southern Maine, a roster of customers that in the past has kept his crews busy through October and sometimes November. He wasn’t so optimistic about the 2022 season.

“(The drought) has had an effect. It has cut our workload in half,” Curtis said.

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