The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 15, 2006


Summer '06: a very strange season

Rather a strange growing season, don't you think? Too much rain in May and June, but then a judicious series of thunderstorms kept the surviving plants quite happy. It was a funny mix of good news and bad news stories for Carlisle gardeners. How did your gardens like this past season?

The relentless rain of May and June, then the heat of July sadly thwarted many Foss Farm flower and vegetable gardeners this past season. My gardening friend George Bishop told me that quite a few people abandoned their plots when they found the ground flooded and remained saturated during and beyond the usual planting time. Annual flowers and vegetables were planted late, and therefore entered the hot stretch of summer weather in rather a puny condition. Low-lying gardens suffered the most and higher well-drained gardens fared the best. Carlisle gardener Joan Allen writes in an e-mail, "My Foss Farm plot is doing nicely — zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers and dills are growing very well. Strangely enough the 'easy' cleomes (spider plant) did ghastly! And also only one of my dahlias came up, which is now blooming. The corn is growing and has some ears but is puny (a fellow gardener I can't remember his name — said the corn is a very heavy feeder and needs lots of food. So now I know what to do next year.) The tomatoes are also doing fine."

Joan's tomatoes are doing fine, yet I have heard several people mention the tomatoes were poor this year. Was it because their roots were waterlogged during the critical young stage or because the nutrients were leached out of the soil? "Ha!" you say, "My tomatoes are doing well." That seems to be a pattern this year. Either the plants did very well or very poorly. In my vegetable garden the basil and peppers are lush, while right next to them the tomatoes are dreadful. Go figure.

Carlisle Garden Club President Cecile Sandwen writes in an e-mail: "I'm not sure if it was going on vacation in July (and coming back to weeds so high I had to search for tomato plants) or the rain, but my garden is way behind. Beans are good, tomatoes and squash behind. Cukes are small. Pepper plants healthy, but only a few fruit. However, this is an excellent year for crabgrass."

Was it a good year or bad year for fruiting trees and bushes? It seems that if the blossom was ready for pollinating during the rainy stretch, there was pathetic fruit set. If the bees and other pollinators had one of the few dry days to find the flowers, then it was a bountiful year. Gooseberries did well, but blueberries were boom or bust.

A trumpet vine I planted three years ago that struggled to stay alive those first two years zoomed skyward six feet or more and is now very happily wrapping itself around the arbor over my kitchen door. The wild fox grapes that are the wild cousins of Concord Grapes (I call mine Carlisle grapes, not Concord grapes) yielded the largest and highest-quality harvest in many years. Typically the clusters of grapes are one or two, but this year I counted twenty grapes on one particularly lush cluster. I made lots of grape jam this year which is truly yummy.

Kiwi fruit crop

The kiwi vine that has only in recent years yielded the smooth-skinned, grape-like kiwi fruits is laden with fruit this year. Margaret Darling planted the same kiwi vine (probably planted over a decade ago, as was ours), and she writes in an e-mail: "I'm very much looking forward to the gazillion little kiwis set on our humongous tangle of hardy kiwi vines. This is the third bearing season for this amazing set of plants, two females and one male, planted close together and completely intertwined. These tasty little marvels are much smaller than store-bought kiwis, and are smooth-skinned. They average the size of large grapes, and hang in clusters under the heavy leaf cover. They ripen from September to October, and are a delight just popped whole into the mouth! We were told the vines would take five to seven years to become productive, and we had given up on them when we were surprised with that first crop of about 200 kiwis. Another great surprise has been that the resident produce-pilferers (and we have had them all) don't seem to recognize these lovely fruits as potential food to be stolen!"

In general the rain seemed to make most vines, trees and shrubs (and lawns) very happy this year. The saddest gardening story comes from Cindy Nock. She writes, "This year I bought a potted patio tomato plant with a good sized tomato already growing and set it in a nice big pot outside my back door. We had great hopes of having all of the vine-fresh tomatoes that two people could want all summer and into the fall. We enjoyed our first ripe tomato on July 9 in a BLT sandwich. On July 11, a sudden summer hail storm took down our tomato plant."

Hail in July ... yes, it has been a very strange growing season!

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito