(HOST) If you were disappointed with your garden this year – and many people were – commentator Henry Homeyer says don’t be discouraged – there’s always next year.
(HOMEYER) Being a gardener can be a humbling experience. Some years I struggle not to think of myself as the Czar of Zucchinis or the King Tut of Tomatoes. Not this year. This year I’ve had a lot less than perfect success. But I try not to focus on failures.
The season started off with weeks of rain, soggy soils, and grey skies. As usual, I started my seedlings indoors in early April. But I couldn’t get them in the ground as early I would’ve liked because my garden was often swimming. Even though I use raised beds, the ground stayed cold and wet through much of June. Eventually I planted, but by then some of my plants had decided this wasn’t their year, and just dozed all summer. The sun often hid behind a mask of gloom. Even in midsummer we never had any really hot days, the kind people like to complain about. By mid-September I still had too many unripe tomatoes, and frost was looming just over the horizon.
But all the cool wet weather was good for something – encouraging fungal diseases. Many of my full sized tomatoes developed rotten spots. Highly unusual. My Sungold cherry tomatoes produced fairly well, but kept dropping unripe tomatoes on the ground. And my peppers? Forget about them. Even my Hungarian Wax peppers that usually produce in huge numbers – in the comfort of my unheated hoop house – produced very little.
I like to remind myself that I’m not the only one who’s had a bad year. At the farmers markets of the region, gardeners have been seen actually BUYING zucchinis. Lurking around, whispering furtively, “Hey man, you know where I can score some zukes?” I haven’t heard a single zucchini joke this year. And people aren’t locking their cars to prevent friends from depositing bags of those large green missiles in the back seat. Pumpkins? I don’t have one decent carving pumpkin, and just a few pie pumpkins. My cukes look like half-inflated balloons: full diameter at one end, scrawny at the other.
So what has done well this year? We had a bumper crop of blackberries, and blueberries have been splendid. I think those successes can be attributed to plenty of rain following a mild winter. Fruit buds are set the summer before, and cold weather in winter can kill those buds. Maybe global warming is not such a bad thing. Maybe I should buy an SUV. Potatoes have done quite well for us. Not great, but we won’t go hungry. Broccoli, cabbages and lettuce have done well. They like cool, moist conditions, and sunshine is less important to them than some other veggies. Our leeks are great. Garlic and onions were OK.
Like most gardeners, I always believe that next year will be better. And after this summer, that’s bound to be true. It couldn’t get much worse!
Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist.