Strange Gardening


This is my 29th season of vegetable gardening.  I began when I bought my house, and started from bare dirt.  There have been many iterations over the years, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that no two gardening seasons are alike.  What thrives one year may be a total bust the next, and vice versa. Here in Colorado, with high altitude and a huge range of weather conditions, its always an adventure. This year has had its share of unusual occurrences.

Sometime in February or March, we usually get a week or two of warm weather prior to the onset of the spring snows. I take advantage of this window and plant my early spring, cold-tolerant vegetable seeds then, usually some spinach, lettuce and sugar snap peas. Then, when its really spring and the ground is often too wet to work, my already planted seeds are ready to sprout.  Works nicely more often than not.

By mid-May, the lettuce and spinach were growing nicely and the sugar snap pea vines were reaching skyward. So I put my netting trellis up for the peas and we headed off to Yellowstone for a few days. Enter heavy snowstorm. We arrived home, coming the long way round as I-80 was closed due to blowing snow. The netting and vines were bent way over by the snow, but as it melted out, the bedraggled vines resumed their growth and recovered well. The spinach was fabulous; we had two good harvests before it completely bolted in early June. The lettuce bolted shortly thereafter. Not unusual for these crops, although I did miss having a good Caesar salad made with home grown romaine.

What is unusual is how the sugar snap peas have done. I’m still harvesting, now more than a month after I’ve usually pulled the spent vines. Some of the vines are browning now, and yet there are still some new blossoms. We are a few days away from August, there have been many days in the 90’s and those peas are still producing. Amazing.

sugar snaps
Sugar snap pea vines, still producing in late July!

Another oddity this season concerns my tomato plants. Two of the plants are Brandywine, a delicious heirloom variety. These plants are sometimes called “potato leaved” as their leaves are much larger than those of the average tomato plant, more similar in both size and shape to the leaves of their cousin the potato. The two Brandywine plants are next to each other, growing under virtually identical conditions. I started the plants from the same packet of seed. And yet one plant’s leaves are the biggest I’ve ever seen, and nearly twice as large as its neighbor.

tomato leaves
The unusually large leaves (4-5 inches across) on the left, with its normally sized neighbor on the right

In the next raised bed over are the summer squashes.  Zucchini, yellow squash and patty pan, which look like light green flying saucers. The yellow squash is doing well, I picked the first squash yesterday. The zucchini is coming along, starting to blossom. And something ate every darn leaf off of the patty pan plants, so there won’t be any this year.  All planted on the same day.  I’m really glad I don’t make my living as a farmer!

Then there are the actual potatoes. I’ve grown them in tubs in recent years, it makes harvesting much easier. Plant them in the spring, dump them out mid to late summer, pretty easy. This years potatoes aren’t very happy. They grew well for a time, and now something has put a lot of small holes in the leaves. It may be the same critter who ate all the blossoms. I’m watching, and may be harvesting soon. So far, the neighboring sweet potatoes appear to be doing well.

potato leaves
Actual potato leaves, not thriving this year

Back to that late May snowstorm. I haven’t noticed a fruit tree in town that appears to have fruit growing. No apples at my place, for the third year in a row. Once again, I really respect the farmer who depends on crops for income. I’m sad if I don’t get my homegrown produce, and so fortunate that I can go down the street to the farmer’s market on Saturday to supplement what doesn’t grow, or to the supermarket any day of the week. I’m hoping that the western slope of Colorado, which produces much of our states tree fruit didn’t sustain as much damage from the May storm as we did. I do so enjoy my August peach fix!


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