Recently I sent out an e-mail to a hundred or more readers of this column who had e-mailed me a question at some point. I wanted to see how people had done in 2012, and got lots of responses. I asked gardeners to respond to one or more of these prompts: In 2012 I was pleased to see that ...; I was surprised to see ...; I was disappointed to see ...
I’ll go first. I was pleased to see my new asparagus patch grew like crazy. I gave it lots of compost, some Pro-Gro organic fertilizer and a healthy dose of green sand. By fall I had five or more stems from each root, and most grew three-feet tall. My parsnips grew like crazy, as did onions ... and all root crops.
I was surprised to see how deeply my scorzonera (a first year for it) grew into the ground: eight to 12 inches, even though each root was less than an inch in diameter. And each was a nearly perfect cylinder. It’s a lesser-known root crop, one that is cooked and eaten, not munched raw like carrots. It tasted good in the turkey stuffing or sautéed with other root vegetables. I was surprised that my beets grew so perfectly, even the ones that I had not thinned enough.
I was disappointed to see, once again, that various blights terminated my tomato harvest early. In the "old days" tomatoes kept on growing and producing fruit through September and into October. We covered them with blankets to keep the frost off them. But not anymore. Late blight finished them off by Labor Day. And of course, there was the impatiens downy mildew that killed impatiens off.
But many readers had great a great summer, due in part to the sunny weather. Peg Sullivan wrote saying, "In 2012, I was pleased to see that everything I planted (and many things I didn’t!) grew beautifully. My gardens were full of color, flavor, and diversity and I didn’t have one crop failure or disappointment. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of bees, butterflies and birds that visited my flower and herb gardens, and with a minor ‘high security’ fence in my vegetable garden this year, I was able to fend off the pesky, but oh so comical woodchuck who hid under my zucchini leaves the prior year and demolished my kale crop. It was an incredible gardening season for me, and more of them like 2012 would be great!"
Gary Milek, of Cider Hill Gardens in Windsor, was surprised to see that he could eat fresh garden tomatoes in December. Last fall his wife, Sarah, pulled some "Juliet" tomato plants that were loaded with green fruit and hung them upside in the garage, where they slowly ripened.
But many readers were disappointed by their losses to animals. Rebecca Tucker, on the Black River in Springfield, wrote that "In 2012 I was disappointed in that, though I caught one woodchuck early in June in a hav-a-hart trap and delivered it to my neighbor for a stew, I spent the next two months trying to stay ahead of the second. ... NEXT year, I’m building a chicken wire fence with a base of PT lumber buried 6 inches down all around the garden."
Many readers complained of the large numbers of mice and squirrels this year, probably due to the relatively snowless winter.
Reader Jan Polex noted that she was "Disappointed by the number of rabbits and what I needed to do to keep them out and also by my poor aim of my sling shot (was better last year)."
Ruth Winkler, of Cuttingsville, among others, wrote that she "was disappointed in the fact that our apple trees this year did not provide us with any. The year before I had so many we were giving them away and I made lots of pies." I think they will be back next summer -- most of us had an unseasonably warm spell in April, followed by a hard frost that killed those buds that were already opening.
Brian Steinwand, recently retired, wrote that he was surprised by "how well some crops do in containers. I can grow a lot in a small amount of space, and even move some of those containers to follow the sun during the day."
I chuckle, thinking of Brian walking his tomatoes like a puppy on a leash! But more power to him! I’m not sure I will ever be able to do that -- retire, that is.
Reader Daniel Duffy wrote, "In 2012 I was pleased to see that you were available when I had questions. I am a beginning gardener, just completing my second year. I have your book, "Organic Gardening (Not Just) in the Northeast: A Hands-On Month-to-Month Guide," and it guided me spring through fall, with tips, suggestions, guidelines which I was grateful to have. It was particularly useful because of its concentration on the Northeast. You also were kind enough to reply to my many E-mails sent to you."
Thanks, Daniel. I don’t have the time to answer all questions, but I do try. My best wishes to all of you for the New Year. Let’s hope that next year will be even better than this year!
Henry Homeyer is a life-long organic gardener, gardening consultant, author of four gardening books and UNH Master Gardener. His Web site is www.Gardening-guy.com.
"Wobar and the Quest for the Magic Calumet," Henry’s new children’s book, is available at his web site, www.henryhomeyer.com or your local bookstore. You may write Henry at P.O. Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.