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win some, lose some: how’d your garden grow?

THE COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT IS OPEN (or if you prefer to rave rather than rant, please do so). We haven’t had a good tell-all in eons. So why now? Fall starts Wednesday at 11:09 PM EDT, so what better moment to answer this one: How’d your garden grow this spring and summer? Was it “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” or “Days of Heaven,” or (so sorry if you answer yes to this last possibility) “Paradise Lost”? My story:

No rain.

That about sums up how I feel about the so-called gardening season of 2010. No rain.  Believe me, you don’t want to hear me say much more, as it gets ugly fast.

The only good parts: few fungal diseases and lots of frogs (who stayed here with me by the little backyard pools in even larger-then-normal armies–as groups of frogs are called–since there wasn’t much moisture in the vicinity otherwise). Lots of acorns (above) and such wildlife bounty on certain other fruiting trees and shrubs (crabapples, apples) but on the other hand, little on my hollies (aborted from drought when half-ripe). Like I said, I had better not get wound up here.

You? Got a complaint, a dream-come-true, or something in between to share?

If you haven’t see our past rants…

The Confessional

Some stuff really gets A Way to Garden-ers going. Weigh in, or just lurk while everyone else shares about these hot buttons:

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  1. No real complaints but nothing to really brag about either.

    Here in the Desert Southwest we’ve had an unusual amount of rain for the year. A few fungus problems and a whole lot of extra weeding. Since my garden usually looks bad at this time of year, that don’t count. Overall, it’s been good but I’m ready to be done for the season.

  2. graes says:

    ah… just moved to Pittsburgh (Wexford) all the way from Calgary, Alberta (Canada).. the house we moved in had a garden that was taken for granted for about 8 years. Imagine our dismay when the snow melted and cold turned to warmth and then heat.. The weeds were everywhere and some were taller than me! So this spring and summer was really more of a cleanup and trying to rebuild a lost garden. Though I have only 1 picture to show for the “before”, I made sure to take a few of the “after”. And of course it doesn’t stop here, does it? It’s a continuous effort. Some of the plants that have now been planted are english and french lavender, white, pink and merlot echinaceas, bee balm, hardy hibiscus, azaleas, buddleias, russian sage, 2 different varieties of coreopsis, chocolate mint, dwarf goldenrods, spireas and verbenas, penstemon, english daisies… And the only hope is that they’d come back next year. And then, I’d be more able to go into detail as to how my garden grows…

    Now, my question is, after having excitedly planted spring bulbs 2 weeks ago, I found that the daffodils and crocuses have started sprouting! What do I do? Cover them with a thicker layer of mulch? Leave them as they are? Yikes! This is the first time it’s happened to me. Would anybody be able to shed light on this?

    Thanks so much!!!

  3. Penny says:

    Here in the midwest, Chicagoland, I cannot remember a greener summer. We never got that burned out look that comes. In fact, everything is still green as can be and besides the potted plants, I really didn’t need to water much until August. Having said that, it is because of all of the rain. The tomatoes won’t ripen and the weeds are magnificent, the hydrangea are huge and leafy, but not too flowery and the ferns kept up appearances until August when they deserted the cause and made a new one for me, the only burnt out look to be had.

  4. Katherine says:

    My garden is still going here in Staten Island, NY, a microclimate zone 7, but I have to say I have had to water every other day this summer and I am tired out! Now that it is late September my tomatoes have finally begun to grow and produce fruit!! We have had a banner year for spider mites and try as I might – they have conquered some of my favorites including my sage, pink foxtails and arborvitae. I am thinking of changing them all out next year – but then again- the major lesson I have learned from my garden is patience so I keep reminding myself that I should practice it more often and keep hope for surprises!! I garden in a concrete Sahara so I should be grateful that my roses and cleome did as well as they did! However- I scared of the many cleome seeds that have missed my envelope! I am sure I will be posting about them next year.

    But just in case- for the record I have to say that I owe my garden to landscape fabric! I would have a full garden on weeds otherwise! I think it deserves reprieve!!

  5. Katie says:

    After reading through the previous posts, I feel almost (but, only almost!) guilty for the amazing gardening success I experienced this year. For the first time in 12 years, I finally have a yard of my own (I was an apartment dweller in Seattle and San Diego), and was able to start a garden. As our yard is fairly small, I chose the Square Foot Gardening method, and built a 4×8 foot raised bed. I’m not sure if it was the new soil, the addition of compost, the few shakes of Osmocote, or the early start to the growing season (we live in a small suburb north of Minneapolis, MN with a traditional growing season start of May 1, this year it was April 1), but my garden simply produced, and produced, and produced! My two Black Beauty Eggplant even managed to survive a small infestation of bugs and gave me five of the little treasures. We had one minor incident where I discovered three red beets had been chewed down to little nubs, with one pulled out of the garden and left to shrivel in the early July sun, but the plants recovered nicely and we had a beet feast. My tomato (one plum and one Mr. Stripey heirloom) and pepper (one each of chocolate, green bell, red bell and jalepeno) are still producing, and that’s well after the soups, jams and salsa have been canned and tucked away for later enjoyment. I’m so excited about the results of my first ever garden, that I’m planning a second box of equal size next year, and am currently plotting out two new perennial gardens to give the yeard a little character. I am so excited about this new found love, and even have my no-rabbit food-eating husband looking forward to next year’s harvest! Hopefully, the gardening gods will smile down on us once again.

    1. Margaret says:

      Big welcomes to Graes, Steve, Stephanie, Tanja, Anna, Krys, Katherine and Katie. (Sorry to have gotten behind in my hellos today!) Loving all these tales of a summer in the garden — each of us with our own experience and “take” on it, but so many similarities. Thanks for sharing. What it all boils down to I guess is Tanja’s “gardener’s motto” — NEXT YEAR WILL BE BETTER (which sounds a lot like HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL to me). :)

      See you all soon.

  6. Todd Carr says:

    All I can say is that I had a great year here in Cornwallville. Being your neighbor Margaret, I know the lack of rain was a bit of a disappointment, but I think we caught a few more summer showers here over the course.

    It was a relief from the drowning rains of last season.

    Working a season at Loomis Creek; learning, talking and planting so many new plants has really kick started the gardens here. The watering was a pain but well worth the view!

  7. Ilona says:

    My garden started off great, but the late summer heat and dryness decimated the plants and the harvest of vegetables. This is the second year of disappointment for me… even though I made some advances in the form and layout of the garden. Win some lose some.

  8. Sue says:

    Here in Northern Michigan, it was HOT, Humid(!!!!), but despite all that, I somehow managed to have the best harvest of cauliflower ever. And, the FIRST BRANDYWINE tomato in FOUR years of trying. So, I guess I can’t complain. I feel so bad for some of the others-sounds like this year was a B@#$%.

  9. LiriopePisces says:

    The garden was just okay for me here in southeastern Missouri. So many hot and sweet peppers that I can barely fit anything else in my freezer right now. Maybe two tomatoes from the “Prudence Purple” plant in my garden–they would rot before becoming fully ripe, and I was too stubborn to pick them green. Copious amounts of zucchini until the squash bugs got the plants, but I was sick of zucchini by that time anyway:) I tried Eggplants again and made little plastic caps for them to protect against flea beetles–it worked, but the fruit was still bitter. I need to research on why that is…

    I grew sunflowers “Moulin Rouge” in the veggie garden this year and I think that was my favorite crop. They were tall and gorgeous and watching the finches land on them was a delight.

  10. Deirdre says:

    Here in Seattle, summer came late and left early. Anything that likes heat didn’t do much of anything until August, and I’m still waiting on some dahlias to bloom. The big catastrophe of the season was the driver that plowed through the fence, across the garden, and into the porch steps in April. It set back that corner of the garden quite a bit. On the down side, who knows if any of the winter aconites, trout lilies or trilliums I planted their last fall will come up after all the disturbance. On the up side, I now have some VERY BIG ROCKS installed in that corner which I like very much.

  11. Lynnie says:

    Tomatoes did great this year…I’ve learned that planting parsley between each Tomato plant stops the white butterfly from laying it’s eggs on the plant….I didn’t lose one tomato to tomato worms…I will do this again next year.

  12. Waneta from Virginia says:

    I had truly magnificent quantities of crabgrass, foxtail grass and wild morning glories. Too bad that I didn’t want any of it, but the compost piles were happy.

    I gave up on green beans too soon because of dry weather and a severe infestation of earwigs and slugs that were eating young plants to the ground. The original planting was some French filet beans that were just not tough enough. Judging by how well a slightly later planting of dry beans did, a bush Blue Lakes type probably would have done very well. Ah well, live and learn.

    I’m not sure what happened to the summer squash. Big plant, but it didn’t set any squashes. This is the second year that this has happened, so I’m thinking pollination problems. The sugar pumpkins weren’t as prolific either.

  13. benjia morgenstern says:

    My biggest disappointment is my lawn..filled with weeds and I don’t want to use anything that will harm my wildlife. So i have been manually pulling them out..insanity!
    Any tips…

    But The Stewartia tree Margaret raved about in her column on 5 small trees is doing so well. I planted it last Summer and it is now turning the most glorious shades of red and orange. One question..it looked like it set buds ( white) in July but alas and alak, no flowers????? Why?

    Also banner year for my endless summer hydrangas..rose of sharon but some lilacs look dog gone tired. Is it water or old age? benjia

  14. Dee Langston says:

    The veggies were a bust. But I learned, finally, that I really must rotate things, even though my growing space is limited — my sunniest, richest bed seems to be infested with root knot nematodes and one or two varieties of tomato wilt.

    But there was some glory, too. The elephant ears I planted around the gas meter, to camouflage it against my knob-twisting granddaughter, were spectacular, and I had lots of lantana and plenty of butterflies. Just can’t eat them, but fall is another season, and I’m hopeful.

  15. linda says:

    Our ornamental shade garden, in it’s seventh year, has finally come into its own and was (still is) so beautiful! We did have to start watering in late August after a month of absolutely no rain.

    A second veggie bed was added in our sunny side yard this spring. Cut worms ate the cucumber seedlings, and the second set of plants just started producing in late August. Five different varieties of sweet peppers all seemed to have some sort of wilty disease, but still managed to produce some beautiful peppers. Tomatoes have been coming fast and furious since mid-July (slowing down somewhat now but still producing ripe tomatoes.) I’ve made ketchup and spaghetti sauce, ate tons fresh, and gave even more away. Green beans – lackluster, beets awesome, and monster kale that doesn’t agree with my digestive system.

    Took my 10-year-old lab mix to a holistic vet and am transitioning him to a raw diet. The veggies he’ll be eating will include kale and green beans, so now I’ll be gardening not only for the human members of the family, and now I know what to do with all that kale I can’t eat. :)

    For everyone who had a tough gardening year – chin up – there’s always next year!

  16. Deborah says:

    Here in our part of the Catskills, we had a decent summer, with what sounds like more than our share of rain. A couple of dry spells lasting 2 or 3 weeks that had me dragging the hoses out, but overall a decent season. Personally I hated how hot it was. We’re at about 2500 feet and it’s unusual for us to have more than 4 or 5 days in the mid-80’s or higher. This year we had 4 or 5 weeks like that. It was our best year yet for tomatoes, since we moved here from PA in 2000. They loved the heat. We also have about 30 butternut squash that had enough sun to get ripe before frost. Not so good: we lost 2 full rows of garlic, over 200 plants, to some fungal disaster.

  17. Charlie says:

    Hi Margaret, on a scale of 1 – 10 I would give my garden a 8 this year. I have been learning a lot through reading (thanks for your great info) from many sources. I used some good organic fertilizer and of course had to keep providing water when the rain did not come. Drought here in south central PA was worse part this year. It was a lot of work trying to keep things watered. This was my first year for garlic and brussel sprouts. Garlic was a failure as I waited too late to plant. And, I would say the same for the brussels. Tomatoes were good. I have one heirloom variety called Arkansas Traveler that is a great producer. Plants are at least 7 feet tall and still producing. I did have blight on the tomatoes, I cut those leaves off as they occur and the plants continued to grow. Mariachi Chili peppers are also a great success, plants are at least 4 ft and still producing. Egg plant was new for me this year and turned out very well. So I am pleased but ready for some rest that winter will bring. Thanks again for your very informative web site.

  18. dd says:

    I battled cucumber beetles early on and could not get rid of them w aaaa organic product. I had to leave my garden for 3 weeks!!!! Will never do that again. Of course w the harvest, toms were early for here in Maine. I was lucky enough to be able to salvage enough to can and freeze, but the plants looked dead, even though the toms were OK. I have no idea what that was about!
    dd

  19. Linda in gnawbone indiana says:

    Hi Margaret,
    Just experienced the dryest August in recorded history here. And no rain to speak of in July. However, I planted my heirloom tomatoes in self watering pots early in the season and watered daily, all 16 of them, and had a great bounty from them. In ground veges not so good. Some cukes and peppers but thats about it. Switched to pot gardens as the dryness continued and harvested mustard greens and lettuces from them. But, always the “cup half full “person I am, I used my what would have been weeding/mowing time (no grass or weeds d/t dryness) to dig lots of holes and shop the garden centers for some of the great trees and shrubs being offerred at a drastic discount. Bought my first Double file Viburnum as well as many others including 3 Kerria Japonica “Picta”, 6 more Hydrangea, 5 other viburnums and my lovely new Bottle Brush Buckeye plant from Lazy S’s. High hopes for the spring! I actually appreciate the opportunity to spend on these new plantings offered by the drought this year. I have faith the rain will come

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Linda. Bottlebrush buckeye — love it! Sounds like you have some favorites of mine there! No rain here either until yesterday, and too little too late, I’m afraid. Hope we get snow or at least a very rainy fall to recharge the ground somehow. See you soon.

  20. Lee K says:

    Thank you for the delightful postings, Margaret! They’re definitely a bright spot in my week!
    This summer my family and I made our first garden beds in the house we moved into last summer. We have a nice sized lot outside of Boston. We spread 20 cubic yards of mulch (you should have seen the truck and our driveway!), prepped two raised beds for herbs and veggies, dug multiple perennial beds, planted some very small fruit trees, asparagus and raspberries. Although we were feeling sort of discouraged in the spring, with regular watering things have done very well, especially for our first year here! Our herb raised bed has brought lots of wonderful basil and we’re still harvesting tomatoes, carrots and beets.
    Thank you for all of your regular encouragement, beautiful pictures and sharing your expertise! It’s a pleasure to get to know you through your wonderful site!

    Best,

    Lee

  21. Ilona says:

    We finally had some rain, I harvested my birdhouse gourds… and may get a few tomatoes before the frosts which are surely coming ( possibly next week!).

    Didn’t see whether you got the rain in amounts you wanted, but it appears the same weather system worked its way through NY state, too.

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