Summer of 2016 growing season

Every fall for many years I have written a summary of how gardens have fared over the growing season in our area. It includes not only my garden experiences but also those of the many people who contacted me throughout the year —and not just vegetable gardens but fruits, flowers, trees, etc.
Gardening begins long before putting seeds in the ground. If you have fruit trees, pruning apple trees in March and April starts the new season. Then there is fertilizing, clean up, transplanting, etc. My garden season began on May 1 when I picked my first asparagus and planted my Norland Red potatoes. This is late for new potatoes but with the cool spring and so much rain, I didn’t dare to put them in any earlier, and if you remember, it rained a lot this summer. The cool spring was good for cole crops like spinach, peas and rhubarb to mention a few.
I kept getting calls from gardeners who were anxious to plant their tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumber and beans. I told them to wait until the first of June to avoid any chance of a late spring frost. Some took my suggestion and some didn’t. On May 14 the temperature dropped to 30 degrees, and I was glad I listened to my own advice. On May 15 the temperature dropped to 25 degrees at our place, and to make matters worse, the temperature stayed that low for a couple of hours, which is very unusual. As a result, although my 70 apple trees are old but were loaded with blossoms, I had a total of only five apples, and those were so bad even the deer wouldn’t eat them. My 23 blueberry bushes were loaded with white flowers, yet when it came time to harvest, I had less than 10 pints total.
I called Jim Birkholz, owner and operator of the Pleasant Valley Orchard and Pick Your Own Strawberry patch. Jim stated that he thought he was spared because he has several varieties of apples and some were yet to bloom. My opinion is that Jim does it right by planting his trees on a south slope that protects the trees by two to three degrees at a time like the May 15 freeze. I spoke with Jim before I wrote this article and he said that some of his apples could have been affected by the frost. A couple of varieties produced smaller yields and the rest had smaller than normal apples. Some of his apples were affected by russeting. This means that the peeling is more porous which allows in more air and sunlight to penetrate the fruit, making it sweeter. The apples didn’t look as nice and were smaller so they were sold at the orchard as seconds but tasted really good.
I had at least five calls from people asking why they had no acorns this year. I asked if they had apple trees and if they had apples. All of them said yes, that they had apple trees but had no apples so the only answer I have is that the oak tree blossoms were also affected by the May 15 frost.
Back to other harvests: It was a great year for rhubarb, asparagus, corn and potatoes. Some people left their potatoes in the ground too long so some of the crop began to rot. Same for onions: It was a great year if you didn’t leave them in the ground too long. It was a good year for small garden crops, and I know many who had a second crop or more with their spinach, kale, peas, beets, carrots, etc. At the Almelund Threshing show in August, several people complained that though they had lots of flowers on their cucumbers, squash and melons; no fruit ever developed. One thought we had was that with so many cloudy, raining days, the bees weren’t out pollinating as much.
I asked Jim Birkholz how his strawberries did with the frost and the weather. He said that he covers his strawberries so there was no damage and the crop was good but the strawberry season was shorter than usual. By the way, grape buds were frozen off and though the buds grew back, the season was still delayed. The raspberry season started early and the ever bearing season went on until the first part of November. The only problem with raspberry picking was that it rained continuously and many went to waste.
We finally had a killing frost on Nov. 18, which made 2016 the longest growing season on record. However, even after the frost, some were still picking Brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale.

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