By Jan Cashman
Our hot July wasn’t the only weather extreme to affect the 2007 growing season; we also had snow, rain, frost, drought, all kinds of weather that affected our plants’ growth this past spring and summer.
Well above average snowfall last February and an early, warm spring made the Gallatin Valley green, green, green by May. Our friend, Father Denis Cashman, was visiting us in May and commented that the Gallatin Valley looked like the Garden of Eden–and he’s from Ireland! In an eight day period at the end of May we had 5″ of rain! Gardens were soggy.
Apple and flowering crabapple blossoms were spectacular in mid-May. Then, a hail storm hit on a Sunday afternoon and the blossoms were gone. For many days in May we were harvesting and enjoying meals of our asparagus. We recommend the newer variety of asparagus called Jersey Knight over the old standby, Mary Washington. It produces thicker stalks and more of them.
Even though it was a little wet to work the ground, we planted our vegetable garden as usual on Memorial Day. I planted my annual flowers, too, and the plants were off to a great start. On June 26, we were lucky, it only got down to 32 degrees at our house and our tomatoes were protected with “Walls-o-water”. Others weren’t so lucky. It got cold enough to damage many area gardener’s tomatoes, peppers, and other tender plants.
Each year, at the October meeting of the Gallatin Gardeners Club, members report on what worked for them in their gardens this season. A number of the members mentioned good crops of strawberries. Their everbearing varieties, Quinalt and Fort Laramie, and the day-neutral called Tri Star were reported as being especially productive when they received enough water. Raspberries were good this year, too although our Boynes had a bigger crop in 2006.
July, 2006 was hot, but July of 2007 shattered all heat records. We had triple digit temperatures 14 times in July, breaking an all time heat record on July 6 when it got up to 106 degrees. July’s nights were warmer than usual, too. The heat was good for most growing things if they got enough water. Low humidity made watering even more crucial. Don Mathre, from the Gallatin Gardener’s Club, said once the heat hit in July, his usual watering amount of 1 inch per week was not enough for his sweet corn and squash. More than doubling his watering helped a great deal.
The hot days and nights in July may have been uncomfortable for us humans, but many plants thrive in those conditions if they have adequate water. Junipers showed lots of new growth. Linden, a shade tree that can be slow-growing, put on lots of growth this summer. Jerry feels this tree is underused in the landscape since it is relatively disease and insect free. Some flowers do better in the heat than others-my zinnias, osteospermum, petunias, and marigolds looked great all summer–perennials like salvia, coreopsis, and rudbeckia, too. On the other hand, seeding grass during a hot, dry summer is difficult, at best. August, with its cooler nights, especially if we get some rain, is a better time.
Fireblight, a bacterial disease that strikes apples, pears, mountain ash, and cotoneaster, was made worse by this spring’s wet, warm conditions. Aphids were not as bad this year as they were last year. Terminal weevils continue to kill the top growth of spruce.
Ross McPherson, retired Forest Service, thinks the heavy spring rains during the time when spruce budworms were hatching, may have reduced their numbers. This caterpillar is devastating local forests of Douglas fir and Engelman spruce. Spider mites, a tiny red spider that feeds on junipers, arborvitaes, spruce, and potentilla, thrive during hot dry summers. Jerry commented that he’s seldom seen spider mites attack alpine currant shrubs like they did this summer.
We were excited about our huge pie cherry crop until we started picking them, and, for the first time in 25 years, the cherries had worms! What a disappointment; next year we’ll remember to spray. Thrips, an insect that attacks flower buds, deforming them and preventing them from opening, were a big problem on gladiolus this year.
Garden club members again named deer as their biggest garden pest. Don Mathre was able to keep the rabbits out of his broccoli once he started spraying with a rabbit and deer repellant containing animal blood. The vole population in our yard and garden seems reduced from a couple of years ago. Possibly the cold, open November and December of 2006 may have reduced their numbers, along with the snowy February.
Most gardeners had another great tomato growing season. Fleet and Kandiquick, early varieties of sweetcorn in our garden, were prolific and sweet. But the later (81 day) variety, Incredible, was—-“incredibly” sweet with large cobs. We had a great crop of huge Red Cored Chardenay and Danvers carrots. There are plenty to last us for months.
The trees in our orchard were loaded with apples and pears this fall. We had to pick some earlier than we wanted so the birds wouldn’t get them first. Plum crops were good everywhere; no one reported getting any apricots. A frost must have gotten the blossoms.
2007 weather affected some plants positively; some didn’t do as well. The fact that we haven’t had a really hard freeze when I’m writing this on October 21 has produced a long fall of beautiful leaves. From maples, to quaking aspens, to mountain ash, to colorful shrubs, what fall beauty for us to enjoy before winter sets in!