by Jan Cashman 10/13/19
The weather in a large part determines how our gardens and plants grow each year. This year’s weather was unusual. If you remember, last winter was unusually cold and snowy. At MSU there still was 16 inches of snow on the ground on March 31. And February and March were the coldest on record at the airport. In fact all spring and summer have been wetter and cooler than average.
One of the biggest weather events of this year occurred this fall with the snow storm and then record cold in early October. ( Northern Montana fared even worse with huge amounts of snow.) How did this weather affect our gardens and plants?
Actually most of our plants loved the cooler, wetter weather. Even though, for many, planting vegetable gardens and annual flowers got off to a late start, most of them thrived with the above average rainfall that continued all summer. And it saved us the work of constant watering of your vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees, and lawns during a dry summer.
VEGETABLE GARDENS The late spring caused many to get their gardens, both vegetable and annual flowers, planted later than usual. We found a small window of dry weather so were able to get most of our vegetables planted by around Memorial Day. We spread the planting of our corn out a few weeks to try to spread out the ripening season. Trinity is the sweetcorn variety we planted the most of and it had big delicious ears early (August ) that fed us for 3 weeks! Then we tried a new, slightly later variety called Swwetness F1 which was also good and gave us 2 more weeks of delicious sweetcorn.
Most everyone’s tomatoes did well this year despite the late, cool weather. It helped that we didn’t have a frost in the fall until September 29. At the Gallatin Gardener’s Club meeting in early October, many different varieties of tomatoes were recommended. We still like Sunsugar for its prolific and delicious cherry orange tomatoes. Belii Naliv is a heirloom Russian tomato that bore early and well for us with medium sized fruit. And you can’t go wrong with Celebrity and Goliath, bigger tomatoes but with a short enough season for us.
We had 2 6” ripe watermelon on our Sugar Baby plant but John Austin had one that weighed 13 pounds! Many pf the short season melons did well this year.
FRUITCROPS Our apples bore well this year but unfortunately, the record cold temperature of on forced us to pick the late-season apples—haralson, haralred, sweet 16, before they were quite ripe. They are still useable but a little green. Pie cherries had a good crop but many of our customers complained of worms in them. Plan ahead with a spraying routine of will take care of that. The last few years we have sold a hardy peach, Contender, and our customers have had good luck with delicious peaches. Last winter took its toll on many of these peach trees, some winterkilling, others just hurt.
It was a good year for raspberries and strawberries. Raspberries are one of the easiest fruit crops for our climate, bearing prolifically almost every year.
PESTS The voles, which last year seemed to disappear in our yard, are back. They have always been in our perennial beds, but this year found our vegetable garden. They burrowed around a lot and ate the tops of our carrots and potatoes. Deer continue to be a problem to gardeners. In many areas the only way to have a vegetable garden is to fence it with a tall fence to keep the deer away.