… and more in the forecast. When you grow food for a living and the weather is this bad, it sort of throws you.
We had so much spring rain here in Ontario that many things struggled, although it is a little better now. I have had to re-seed lots of crops that succumbed.
Among the varieties I’m trialing for Organic Gardening, the tomatoes, peppers, basil, ground cherries, zinnias, brassicas, and beans are okay. The okra and sweet corn are struggling, and the carrots got washed out. I have had lots of pest problems, particularly flea beetles and leaf miners, but I can’t figure out where the cucumber beetles and squash bugs are. Happy days! All the melons and squash are good too.
The weird weather this year is really making me rethink how I run my business. My CSA started up 3 weeks ago, but some things that should be in the shares now, like beets and spinach, succumbed. The extremes have been too extreme: hot and dry, then cold and wet, then hot and wet. Crops in my hoop houses are thriving—maybe in the future I need to take greater advantage of these spaces where the extremes of weather aren’t as big an issue. It’s a drag to work hard and see things go belly-up. I’m sure you know what I mean. —Linda Crago, Wellandport, Ontario
Spring weather here in southern Ontario has been very odd. We had a week of mild (read HOT) weather in March, followed by a deep freeze in April. It managed to wipe out most of the cherry crop in Niagara, as well as wreak havoc on the tender fruit, pears, and apples. So it will be a tough year for a whole lot of growers here.
My test garden crops have been in the ground for about 3 weeks now, through a very dry spring. And again, unseasonably warm. I think the plants just don’t know what to do. Most things in the test garden look good, although something lopped the tops off the ‘Cayenetta’ peppers. The eggplants are poor because of the darned flea beetles, which are terrible this year. Our (non-) winter was so mild that there was very little kill-off of overwintering pests. So I’m on guard!
I had the best year ever for my heirloom tomato transplant sales, so in that way the spring has been kind to me. I grew over 600 different varieties this year, and there are some that I have just discovered myself this year that I am trialling. The heirloom tomato world is pretty exciting! —Linda Crago, Wellandport, Ontario
It appears global warming is at work in the Northeast. As of today, we still haven’t had a heavy frost in southern New England. Usually we have a hard frost by the middle of November. Yesterday I harvested carrots, peanuts, and a really nice broccoli.
Regular readers of this blog may recall the giant head of ‘Green Goliath’ broccoli I picked last July. The broccoli head shown above is actually a side shoot from that same plant! The head is over 7 inches across—bigger than many main heads. I have been picking broccoli side shoots since August and it looks like I may actually be able to keep picking into 2012.
Although the carrots didn’t get planted until early July and were never fertilized or weeded, I’m pretty happy with them. I planted them under my tomatoes and they really didn’t start to grow until the tomatoes died in September. The variety is ‘Big Top’, an Asian type of carrot. I planted ‘Scarlet Nantes’, a variety we are trialing this year, at the same time but they did not germinate (maybe too hot or dry?).
The last photo is of something I have never tried to grow before: peanuts. These were planted very late, in mid-July, but due to the warm fall they produced a small crop. Now I know if I plant them a bit earlier and fertilize I can get a good crop of peanuts.
I still have tons of kale, collard greens, celery, as well as Brussels sprouts in my garden to harvest. I also have to check the celeriac to see if they produced roots. It used to be that after November it was just garden cleanup, but now it seems gardening is a year-round job in New England. —John Lewis, Newport, Rhode Island
I’ve decided there is no such thing as a normal growing season. At least something in the garden does well, no matter what the conditions. But it’s been a tough season for our Minnesota gardens. This year we had a cold, very wet spring that made planting difficult. For the first time ever, we planted some of the early salad crops without working the soil first. If we had waited until the soil was dry enough to till, it would have delayed planting by another month!
Not wanting to upset those of you in the South, I’ll say only very quietly that we are more than 4 inches over normal rainfall for the year. We’ve certainly had ample rain, but the cold was a problem early, followed by unbelievable humidity once it warmed up in July. Of course the humidity and rainfall have contributed to a bounty of fungal diseases. My tomatoes are now around 7 feet tall, but the bottom half of the plants are denuded of leaves from fungal leaf spots of one kind or another. But, hey, it’s a lot easier to find the tomatoes when you don’t have to dig through a riot of leaves.
It seems like a good time to report on three of the trial flowers we’re growing this year. Gaillardia ‘Arizona Apricot’ (top), which won an All-America Selections award this year, is a very nice gaillardia that has bloomed non-stop since early June. The color is a bit more yellow than apricot, but certainly a different shade than the older ‘Mesa Yellow’ from a couple years ago.
Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ (left)—another All-American—is identical to the older salvia ‘Lady in Red’, only much smaller. I like the more compact form, but the taller ‘Lady’ works better when intermingled in a perennial border.
Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’ (right)—beautiful! The flowers of this heirloom annual draw comments from everyone who sees them. —Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Minnesota
The popcorn is thriving! I started the popcorn inside on April 9 and the seedlings had rooted well enough to transplant in 2 weeks. The photo below was taken on May 18, 2011. Three weeks after transplanting, the popcorn is about 2 feet tall and looking good. Compare this with the photo in my April 25 blog entry.
This year reminds me of our cooler spring weather back in the early 1990’s. This week the temperatures have been down in the high 40’s at night and in the 60’s or 70’s during the day. For the last decade-plus I have learned to cope with hot May daytime temperatures in the 100’s. I am welcoming the return of this cooler weather cycle.
It was very windy and gusty last night and I laid in bed listening to the apricots hitting the roof all night long—like Chinese water torture. I think an emergency nap will be in order this afternoon. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada