Pursuing a perfect summer garden

Area residents face trials during their botanical quests

Each season presents Northwestern Colorado gardeners with challenges. This year some of them include: a late spring, frost, hot and dry winds and grasshoppers.

For Stella Hall, of Craig, the challenge has been deer. Hall said the deer got her tomatoes, so she started covering the plants with plastic every night. She chuckled when she said if she remembers to keep the plants covered, there will be tomatoes.

However, now that the deer can't eat the tomatoes anymore, they have started eating the green beans and zucchini.

Hall laughed. "I wouldn't have believed it," she said, "but I caught them red-handed."

"The carrots are growing like crazy," she added. "The deer aren't eating anything close to the ground or under it so far."

The acorn squash are safe, too, because of the hard shells. Referring to the deer, Hall chuckled when she said, "They're are discriminating."

This year, Hall also planted an experimental corn seed that her son sent her. He didn't know what it was, but since the seed was black, Hall thinks it might be an ornamental corn.

"It's going to be interesting," she said.

For Kathy Hockin, "It's been a hard garden year."

At Hockin's Hayden home, the garden got a slow start because of the late spring. Then it frosted, and the garden had to be replanted. The hot, dry winds followed.

Hockin said she will have some peppers and tomatoes because she planted them in pots and was able to move them inside when it frosted. The pots are in a place that protects them from the wind.

However, while she's always had "gobs" of lettuce before (enough to share with others), the crop hasn't done well this year. Also, there are lots of cucumber vines, but it has been too cold for the fruit to set on. There's corn, too, but it will be late.

The zucchini is doing the best out of everything," Hockin said.

Another problem for Hockin's garden has been grasshoppers.

"I don't like to spray, but I've done it twice this year," she said.

"Annoying" is the way Lin Yoast describes the grasshoppers.

"There have been more grasshoppers than anything, " she remarked.

However, they haven't bothered the garden that much.

"They've eaten the basil, but that's all, " Yoast said.

Yoast and husband Bill have been picking cucumbers out of their garden already, and there's also lots of zucchini and other squash and two greenhouses full of green tomatoes.

Yoast's thoughts about this year's garden are the same as those of Hockin's.

"Everything is behind because of the weather, " she said. "We were late getting things started."

Galord Flies said, "Weeds don't dare come into my garden."

Indeed, his garden is absolutely weed-free. Yellow wax beans, chili peppers, carrots, cylindrical beets and tomatoes grow in neat rows. One tomato plant is about six feet tall. Flies calls it his candy tree because he picks some of the already ripe cherry tomatoes from it and eats them like candy.

Winter squash and horseradish grow in the garden, too. And in another part of the yard, there are five varieties of squash, including "roly poly," two types of yellow squash, zucchini and 8-ball (round zucchini).

Flies cans the wax beans. This year, he already has canned 32 pints of beans and has 15 more jars ready to process. He said there will be 60 or 70 pints by the time he's done (65 pints last year) - all from three rows.

Although Flies agrees that it was a late, cold spring and the plants got a late start, they're "OK" now. He has been giving away squash since July 1. His secret?

Flies said there isn't much "bee action" (lack of bees ) in the area. So he goes out to the garden with an artist's brush and self-pollinates his plants.

Flies covers his garden in spring and fall. It's anybody's guess as to when he'll be covering his garden this fall.

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