Last summer, this author wondered how area gardens were producing with the late spring and all, so I visited with some of the residents. Their comments were pretty much the same, having to do with the wet spring, grasshoppers, frost, hot winds, and deer.
So how did the rest of the season go? And what are residents doing to get their gardens ready for spring? This is a follow-up story.
Hayden resident Kathy Hockin said her garden yielded lots of zucchini, more cucumbers than in a long time, and corn that did "nicely." But summer squash and leaf lettuce didn't do well, and there were no potatoes. The late spring freeze "did in" the green beans.
Wild berries did well during the season. Hocken reported that chokecherries, serviceberries and wild currants were plentiful.
As for preparation of her garden plot for next spring, Hockin said she doesn't cut back the dried vegetation. She explained that they live in a windy area, and snow blows off the garden area. The dried vegetation catches the snow. They even put up some snow fence to help keep the snow on the garden.
Hockin covers the garden with about three inches of two-year-old manure. Then when it first snows and the snow doesn't melt, she leaves the garden until spring. If the snow melts, however, she covers the soil with a clear plastic. That makes the soil warm enough for the weed seeds to germinate.
Eventually, the soil gets so hot that the germinated seedlings "cook" and die. The plastic is left in place until Hockin finds all the seedlings dead. Then, she removes the plastic and tills the soil. This helps with weed control for the next year.
In the spring, after the garden plants are up, Hockin weeds "good" and then puts three or four layers of newspaper down around the plants, followed by flakes of straw. This helps control the weeds and conserves moisture.
This winter Hockin will raise tomatoes and peppers inside the house in earth boxes. The plants are sprayed with insecticides before being taken indoors. The boxes are kept under lights.
This winter Hockin also will try growing red spinach and lettuce inside. She said that wheat grass can also be grown inside and used for salads.
Kathy Hockin is a Master Gardener, having completed a class offered by Colorado State University. She also teaches a gardening class for Colorado Northwestern Community College.
Stella Hall, who was having problems with deer this past summer, said that she ended up with all of the green beans she wanted in spite of the deer. She also harvested onions, garlic and so many carrots that she gave them away.
She reported that the zucchini was late putting on fruit, starting "after everything was over."
Raking is all that Hall has done to her garden this fall. She also has planted the garlic for the next year.
Hall, who has a wonderful sense of humor, chuckled when she shared a story about her strawberries. They kept disappearing. So she fenced the strawberry patch. She blamed the robins for stealing the berries. She blamed the cats for not keeping the robins under control. Hall said she even did somersaults.
Then, one day, Hall was surprised when she met up with a person who said he had been picking the strawberries.
Galord Flies said he ended up with tons of squash this summer and canned 51 pints of green beans. He had "nice tomatoes" that took a long time. He still is harvesting carrots that he has been giving away.
As for working the garden, Flies says he spades it and tries to work leaves into the soil because they contain lots of trace elements. He does not put manure on the garden because it contains too many weed seeds.
The Kenneth Rinker family grows "about everything" in their garden. They have had problems with deer so they put up a taller fence.
This summer, they had so many peas that they ate them every day for a month. Jan Rinker said they ended up with "tons of peas." Rinker said their cabbage did well. So did the corn. They have had success with watermelon and cantaloupe, too, but it wasn't a good year for tomatoes. The carrots and lettuce were put in too late.
As for winter garden preparation, Rinker chuckled when she said, "We put a lot of pea pods on the garden."
What will the story be for the 2009 growing season?