The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 1, 2004

Features

Remembering a long cool summer

Ed note: John Lee is a resident of Lowell Street and works as General Manager of Allandale Farm in Jamaica Plain.

In July Bill Hamilton samples a tasty green bean from his garden plot at Foss Farm. (Photo by Mike Quayle)

Do you remember the summer of 2004 or what was memorable about said summer? It wasn't the heat. It wasn't the searing dry spells or humid, nasty sleepless nights. Yes, there were wicked hurricanes in the southeast which devastated Florida and the Gulf Coast. But up here in New England, suburban Boston, really, this was the summer I would sooner forget. Average daily temperatures ran about five degrees below normal. You say, it was great sleeping weather. I say, it was great for the lettuce crop and other leafy greens. Great for slugs, as well. In fact, it was pretty decent for any plants in the graminacea family such as sweet corn. Corn has been plentiful and sweet all summer and, if you planned well, it will continue to be available well into November in your garden (and/or local farm stand).

Cruciferous vegetables also loved the cool nights. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages have thrived. Not only have the central heads been well-sized, but the laterals have been plentiful and very tasty. Eggplant did okay.However, the heartbreak of the summer has been the tomato crop. It was three weeks to a month late. If you had plantedat what proved to be the earliest safe date (May 1 this year), the crop was nearly two months late. To make a bad matter worse, the cool weather and relatively high humidity has made a mockery of disease control even in the best of garden plots. The early, mid-season and late tomatoes all came in one on top of the other. And to make a bad matter even worse, the price collapsed as a result.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash (of all types) and pumpkins have been paved with powdery mildew and phytophthera (if your garden is in a particularly wet area). That is not to say that some of the winter squashes and pumpkins did not yield well. But they will not have as good keeping strength as they would in a hotter, drier regime.

Then there is the problem of the little b-----ds otherwise known as chipmunks or red squirrels. These charming rodents have been extremely plentiful this year due largely to a mild winter and a plentiful crop of nuts and other desirable forage. Of course, in the summer there are few nuts. What's a poor chipmunk to do besides savage your garden for tasty squashes, tomatoes, beans and other seasonal delicacies? That was after they savaged our perennial gardens for selected roots and bulbs and then dug holes everywhere that subsequently became havens for a horde of opportunistic ground bees and wasps.Nothing nice to say about deer or turkeys which also had an easy winter. Thank goodness there was some natural predation by several litters of coyote pups who helped manage some of the less desirable wildlife on the farm.


2004 The Carlisle Mosquito