Gardening season 2010 busted out of the gates early and, except for stumbling during a frosty spell May 10-12, went full tilt until late October.

I wrote in July about how the frosts cut into the strawberry crop, and the early season meant a Fourth of July without strawberry shortcake. The fate of the apple season was in question then.

It turned out that with the apples, just like with real estate, it was all about location. Some orchards were wiped out while others had almost no damage. It all depended on what stage the apple buds were in when the frosts hit.

But on a brighter note, the tomatoes were wonderful this year. We started picking them in mid-August and stopped picking them in mid-October. We had big ones, little ones and just about any kind you want.

After last year, when the state was hit with late blight and the rest of the plants were damaged by cool, wet weather, it was great to have our fill of tomatoes. Sixty days of eating tomatoes out of our own garden is a wonderful thing.

The other vegetables were mixed. We had a lot of summer squash and yellow zucchini, but for some reason, we only got about 10 green zucchini all season long. One zucchini plant suffered some physical damage, but I don’t know what happened with the rest. And during the brief battle with a family of woodchucks, we did lose most of our cucumber plants. Why the woodchucks favored the cucumbers over the summer squash, I can’t figure out.

The potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, leeks, onions and garlic all produced about the way they have in the past. No surprises; and in many cases that is a good thing. There were a number of vegetable experiments I was going to try this year, and we had mixed success with those.

The biggest success was “Bright Lights” swiss chard. It is pretty enough to serve as an ornamental, and produced a lot of tasty food. I don’t know why we never grew chard in the past — probably because neither Nancy’s parents nor mine served it to us as we were growing up.

We also grew kohlrabi with the idea of storing it as a winter crop. The plants look great, and I am hoping they store well. But we haven’t tried eating them yet and, since I have never eaten kohlrabi, I don’t even know if I will like it. But it was fun to grow.

I was planning to grow a late crop of beets, also for winter storage, but I planted them just as we went into a three-week hot-and-dry spell, so the seeds never really sprouted. That is something we can try again next year.

One success I want to expand on is the experiment with tepary beans. We ate them and liked them during our trips to Arizona and New Mexico, and Fedco offered Mitla, a black variety that the catalog said would grow well in the Northeast.

Well, somehow the seed packet got misplaced, and I didn’t find it until about June 10. And by that time, the garden was pretty full. The packet suggested growing them on a foot-tall fence, and I had an 18-inch square free and a short, steel fence. So I planted about a dozen seeds.

Those plants produced a cup of shelled beans. We haven’t cooked them yet, but will. And as long as they are somewhere near equal to the ones we ate in the Southwest, we’ll grow a lot more next year.

The flowers were superb all summer long. As with everything else, the blossoms came really early, and they seemed to last a long time — especially the perennials that normally bloom in July and August.

The black-eyes Susans, horticultural name rudbeckia, started blooming in June, and kept blooming through August. Hellenium and echinacea also bloomed early and long.

Because the season was so long, around the end of September, we started seeing some normally spring-blooming plants — PJM rhododendrons and spirea are two that I recall — blooming again. They weren’t as fully bloomed as they were in the spring, but the flowers were there.

I only wonder if this fall gift will cut into the bloom for next spring. We’ll just have to wait. And spend the winter thinking of other plants to try.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

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