Mother Nature Acts Up

Every gardening year plays out in it’s own unique way.  The weather changes year to year, new garden pests introduce themselves, some old reliable crops don’t do as well, while others do better than expected.  This past year gave us plenty of surprises; many of them not so good.  I know I’ve said it before, but Mother Nature can be a cruel partner, especially now that climate change is altering our weather.  The following are the top ten reasons that this was my suckiest  gardening season ever:

1.  Left “Peachless”

The first omen that this would be a disappointing year occurred in late March.  After a couple of weeks of mild weather the fruit buds on our two peach trees began to swell up in anticipation of Spring.  Bam! We got hit with a series of hard frosts, thus killing the fruit buds on our trees.  No peaches.  Great!

 

2.  Climate Change Indoors – The Tomato Seedling Fiasco

This one is on me.  I went back to work part time in late March.  I lost my focus on gardening and didn’t manage the heat/light aspect of starting my tomato seedlings.  The end result was a humiliating loss of my entire tomato crop.  People depend on my to give them seedlings every year.  I let them down.  I let myself down.  Some gardening expert I am.  Changes are coming.  More about that in a future post.

3.  The Return of the Asparagus Beetles

In  a previous post, I bragged about how my chickens were doing great things digging up grubs, bad worms and insects and making the garden safe for democracy.  I went on about how the asparagus beetles disappeared almost completely in 2015.  Feeling proud of “my girls” I attributed the lack of beetles to their efforts.  Heck, I didn’t even plant calendula in the asparagus patch to ward of the beetles.  Bad move!  Asparagus beetles came back in 2016 with a vengeance.  Fortunately, I was able to manage the situation and had a decent harvest.

4.  The Drought

2016 was the hottest and driest year I can ever remember in my thirty years of gardening.  This phenomenon was responsible for a host of consequences: wild creatures visiting my garden because there was no forage in the wild, domestic creatures visiting my garden because there was no forage about, crop failures due to inadequate irrigation (a combination of my being at work and a water ban), bizarre crop behavior (especially with tomatoes).  However, some crops loved the dry heat (hot peppers, cukes, zucchini).

THE PARCHED LAWN DURING THE DROUGHT

5.  The Crows Ate My Cherries

I have to start by saying that I admire the crows in my neighborhood.  They do a fine job of warning my chickens if there is a hawk in the “hood”.  They are also entertaining with their squawking back and forth.  One day I happened to notice strange undulations in my two cherry trees on a very calm day.  It was the crows.  Having a picnic.  In our cherry trees.  They ate every one.  They weren’t even ripe.  Lesson learned.  Netting up earlier this year.

6.  Zebra Worms Ate my Brassicas

New to “Greg’s Garden Party” this year was an infestation (this may be too nice a word) of black and yellow striped worms.  After comparing them with pictures I looked at on line, it appears that these despicable creatures are called zebra worms.  They attacked the kale, cabbage, broccoli and the Brussels sprouts.  They kept coming back after repeated spraying of Azaguard insecticide.  Worms from hell.  Thank you very much!

7.  Chickens Ate  My Tomatoes

So, I’m working in the vegetable garden one morning in August.  I break for lunch.  When I return to the garden, I noticed that the chickens are over by the heirloom tomatoes.  As I get closer, I notice that they are pecking away at a large, ripe Cherokee Purple tomato.  I yell at them and approach to shoo them away.  The three of them look up at me with tomato juice dripping down their beaks as if to say “You talkin’ to me?  Can’t you see I’m busy?”  Having already chased rabbits out of the garden it was now time to erect a fence to keep out all of the beasts, wild and domestic.

8.  The “Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato” Incident

After my tomato seedling crop failure I decided to purchase tomato plants from our local garden center.  I love this place; great staff, nice stuff, five minutes from home.  I was happy to see that they were now carrying “Matt’s Wild Cherry” seedlings, our favorite cherry tomato.  I gladly bought a couple, even bought two for my gardening buddy, Steve (one of the people I let down due to my tomato crop failure).  I was a happy camper.  When the tomatoes began to ripen, it was apparent that these two plants were not “Matt’s Wild Cherry”.  I picked a couple and took them over to my favorite garden center.  It turns out that they had been mis-labeled.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  My buddy Steve was pretty upset about this.  Oh, did I mention my wife?  She was beside herself.  Yeah, she got a little chippy about the lack of “Matt’s” in our diet.

9.  Yellow Jackets Ate My Fall-bearing Raspberries

Another consequence of the hot, dry Summer presented itself in early September as our raspberries were ripening.  I grabbed a plastic container and walked out to the raspberry patch one morning anticipating an awesome breakfast of yogurt with fresh picked fruit.  As I got closer to the raspberry patch, I noticed that there were hundreds of Yellow Jackets on the raspberries.  As I tried to pick individual berries, they would fall apart in my hands.  The Yellow Jackets were sucking juice from individual nodes, because there was no moisture for them in the wild.  I suppose you can hardly blame them.

10.  The Zebra Worm Apocalypse Ruined My Brussels Sprouts

We typically don’t begin to harvest Brussels Sprouts until mid-November.  I picked my first sprouts just before Thanksgiving.  I noticed that the sprouts were infested with the eggs of the dreaded Zebra Worm.  My wife, Catherine was grossed out by this.  As a result, we didn’t pick again.  I’m going to take a year off from growing Brussels Sprouts.  Kiss my butt, Zebra Worms.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS SHOWING THE EFFECT OF ZEBRA WORM DAMAGE

I feel better now.  Venting is so Therapeutic.  If you have any gardening horror stories of your own from 2016 that you would like to share, please leave your comments.  I will be happy to publish them.

Here’s to a better gardening year.

All the best,                                                                                                                            Greg Garnache

FUTURE POSTS:                                                                              
  • What I learned about gardening in 2016
  • Mid-Winter Veggie Fest
  • Some of our new favorite varieties from 2016