<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2529337407275066&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Win some, lose some

| 13 Nov 2012 | 06:28

Lingering in fall’s crisp air is a touch of melancholy as the days get shorter and the anticipation of cold months hangs over us. Frost has withered summer’s lush foliage and transformed the once vibrant plants into brittle stems and leaves. Gathered and tossed into heaps, this plant debris slowly decomposes over winter and miraculously becomes the brown gold that will nourish future crops. In fact, although the garden may appear dormant during these bleak months, there is still activity underground as microorganisms including bacteria and fungi continue to transform, albeit at a slower rate, organic matter into the rich soil that will feed future plants. It is a good time to reflect upon this year’s successes and failures and to reconsider solutions to the many challenges that inevitably confound the gardener. Indeed, every season brings different surprises and problems. Successful gardeners wisely acknowledge that we cannot and do not control the forces of nature. 2012 had many more intensely hot days than any growing season I recall with temperatures reaching the 90- to 100-degree range throughout the spring and summer. Precipitation was erratic as well, with an unusually dry spell in early spring followed by frequent showers throughout July and August. The hot, dry weeks in April forced many cool crops to bolt and stressed tender seedlings that normally would have flourished in the spring rain. Mustard greens tasted sharp as they quickly bolted, sending forth yellow flowers that were delicious additions to salads. The heat also took a toll on my Dwarf Grey snow peas but surprisingly did not harm the Sugar Snaps. Early turnips, radishes, and kohlrabi were tender and sweet one week, only to become woody as soon as the temperature soared. Frequent showers in June coupled with high temperatures created the perfect conditions for fungal and mildew diseases. In the damp, hot weather, chard and beet greens became riddled with brown spots while Asian greens, turnip leaves, collard and kale were afflicted with Alternaria and Cercospora fungal diseases. Septoria Leafspot appeared on the lower leaves of a number of tomato plants, making them susceptible to Anthracnose, a fungus that causes depressed legions on the fruit. With reports of late blight appearing in other parts of New York State, I reluctantly sprayed my tomato plants with an organically approved copper spray that proved pointless as it was washed off by the frequent showers. I also pruned and discarded any leaves that showed signs of disease in an attempt to curtail the spread of these spores. Although stressed, the tomato plants were remarkably productive and bore many ripe fruit by early July. Old favorites such as Sungold, Peacevine and Black Cherry continued to produce heavily as did Amish paste and a delicious, multi-lobed, black heirloom called Noire des Cosebeuf. Leaving the largest and finest looking tomatoes to ripen on the vine, I was devastated to discover every one of them ravaged one morning by an uninvited guest. Although we never caught the culprit, all evidence pointed to a wily woodchuck that managed to climb up our fence. Luckily by then I had loaded my freezer with roasted tomatoes and was turning my attention to processing pesto and squash soup. Flourishing in the heat, basil and shiso became hedges; trombecco and butternut squash took over the garden. The hours spent scraping squash bug eggs off the leaves early in the season were compensated by the numerous delectable squash blossoms we consumed. General Lee, Oriental Petite and Lemon cucumbers were exceptionally productive as were Carmen and Valencia sweet peppers. The best hot peppers were Czech Black and Ho Chi Min. Beans also thrived in the heat with Yard Long Red Noodle and RockyWax being most outstanding. Looking on the bright side, if climate change brings hotter summers, we might not have to lug our fig trees indoors in the winter. By Gar Wang