Rainy summer of 2004

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(Host) Commentator Ron Krupp reflects on a gardening season that began innocently enough but ended up being one of the rainiest on record.

(Krupp) The rains of June, July and August were never ending and brought downpour upon downpour, along with lots of bugs and fungus. Those ugly looking earwigs ate all the plants in Margaret Daniel’s cold frame in her mountain top garden high above the town of Bethel. The good thing about earwigs is that they eat mites, but that didn’t help Margaret. She asked a gardening friend what she could do about them. Her neighbor told her to spread a powder around the plants called diatomaceous earth. This product comes from the skeletons of microscopic sea creatures, which have sharp calciferous, shell-like points when ground up. And it worked.

This summer’s soggy, wet weather with little sustained heat didn’t help my two favorite garden vegetables, sweet corn and tomatoes. Corn loves those hot, sultry 90 degree days that make it so uncomfortable for the rest of us. My early corn wasn’t so sweet, but the sugars held in the late corn. The tomatoes were mushy, not so tasty, and were infected by a blight. I still have enough tomatoes to freeze and can with. However, I know some gardeners who live in the higher, cooler elevations who won’t do as well — the reason being that my community garden plots are located in the banana belt of soils — that rich, alluvial, bottom land along the Winooski River in the Intervale.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Can’t make hay when the sun don’t shine?” Its been tough for many farmers who make the square bales because they are compressed tightly and hold in the moisture. Farmers need two to three days of dry, windy, sunny weather to make the bales. The large round bales you see in the fields are more loosely packed, so moisture is less of a problem. And those plump, white, marshmallow-looking silage bags out in the fields are also okay with some rain. So is the corn and hay silage that is blown into the tall silos or dumped into the bunker silos, as well as green-chop, which is cut fresh and fed directly to the animals.

The grasses and legumes in the pastures and fields are abundant this year even though the rain has washed out some of the nutrients. Farmers that use rotational grazing practices have had an advantage; however, many farmers rely on a good quantity and quality of dry hay stored in the barn to feed their animals during the long winter months.

Thehe season hasn’t been all bad. The strawberries and blueberries did well in many parts of Vermont, all plump and juicy, but perhaps not as sweet. I was at Scott Farm in Dummerston in early September, and the apples looked large and healthy. We’ll see what happens with the corn silage.

This is Ron Krupp, the northern gardener.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.

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