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Highs and lows of the gardening season

09/16/03 12:00AM By Ron Krupp
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(Host) As the time for frost approaches, commentator Ron Krupp reflects on the hits and misses of the gardening season of 2003.

(Krupp) Once the weather turns cooler, gardeners like to get together and compare notes, in an annual ritual I like to call "Kvetching in the Green Mountains."

There's always something to complain about, but this summer the possibilities reached epic garden proportions. For example, I traveled to two blueberry farms where the pickings were at best spotty. The unusually cold winter was hard on the blueberry buds and May was cold, wet and windy. This translated into fewer bees. The bees that were there couldn't pollinate the blueberries as fewer blossoms held forth the sweet nectar. And without blossoms and bees you won't get those delicious blueberries. The strawberries did okay though.

Down in the garden patch, there were lots of bugs like flea beatles. Sure the cucumbers, tomatoes and corn flourished under the unrelenting hot summer sun and persistent rainfalls, but there was a downside: some tomatoes cracked and split.

As it rained...and rained...and rained, some green beans developed a fungus. And my second crop of yellow beans showed up with those little brown spots. But my third crop of Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans did just fine.

The potato bugs had a field day in 2003. I could be seen day after day squishing the yellow/orange eggs and larvae. Fortunately, there is a natural organic insecticide called bacillus thurengensis, which takes care of those Martian-like larvae.

The onions did well, but so did the weeds. Some of the weeds I pulled up with the onions were well over a foot tall. The onions were then left out in the sun for a couple of days to dry and cure.

Crawling through the tomato patch felt a lot like trekking through a tropical jungle. The air was hot, thick and wet, and I could almost hear the weeds and grass growing with abandon. I pulled the weeds out of the moist earth with ease and laid them down as a mulch next to the tomatoes. As sweat poured from my brow, I began to wonder what drew me to gardening in the first place.

Perhaps it's the experience of getting down and dirty in the heat of the day, knowing you can douse yourself with water from the garden hose and be one with it all. Maybe it's feeling your body warm up after a long, cold winter. Or the memory of an early evening when the reds and purples of the sky hovered above the earth and your garden shimmered. Or maybe it's that moment when you sit down to a plate of a dark red heirloom tomato with a little salt, freshly dug potatoes and sweet corn, steamed to perfection with just a touch of butter.

This is Ron Krupp, the Northern Gardener.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.
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