Wild weather 2005

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(HOST) Winter offers most gardeners a rare opportunity to take stock of the last growing season and plan for the one ahead. Commentator Ron Krupp has found himself thinking mostly about the weather.

(KRUPP) Now that we’re within the grips of winter, there’s time to relax a little and reflect on the erratic weather patterns we had to contend with last year. In May it never stopped raining and farmers worried about the first cutting of hay. There was so much rain some folks started praying to the weather gods to turn off the sprinklers and turn up the heat.

In June, the sun came out in all its glory with lots of warmth. July and August brought almost tropical temperatures with intermittent, heavy rainfall and the crops took off with abandon. My heirloom tomatoes grew so fast they cracked with the uneven rainfall. There were even bumper crops of eggplants and peppers, vegetables which normally don’t produce much fruit especially in the cooler pockets of Vermont. Sweet corn and silage corn were also having a field day with the heat and rainfall.

Come fall, apples were firming up and filling out but not ripening with color due to the warm temperatures. Nick Coles of Shelburne Orchards told me they had to pick the fruit even though the apples were still too green. The window of opportunity to harvest apples doesn’t last that long – about a month on average – for the main apple varieties like McKintosh.

And it wasn’t just the apples that didn’t turn red. The maple leaves were not turning into the colors we so treasure in Autumn. October was a disaster for leaf peeping. As in May, it rained and rained – a cold rain that made life rather miserable for anyone working outside. It was like English winter weather – cold to the bone, wet and gray.

By early November, the ground was so saturated that my friend, Robert King, who lives on Putney Mountain, was having trouble pulling cabbages, and beets and turnips from the earth and digging carrots and potatoes to place in his root cellar. Robert’s soil is a heavy clay. His boots were sinking down into the mud and getting stuck.

The wet conditions also made it hard for farmers to spread manure. In Vermont, farmers are required to spread manure on their fields by December 15th. If they don’t spread it in time, they could run out of storage space for the effluent later in winter.

Early grapes did well with lots of sweetness but the late varieties lost flavor due to excess moisture. And while I guess we have to take the good with the bad, I wonder what 2006 will bring. In the meantime, stay warm and start perusing those colorful garden catalogs.

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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