Greenspace: This season has been weirder than usual

Jim Hillibish

You could make a case for every gardening season to be weird. It’s always different. That’s the fun of it. We never know what to expect.

This year is one of the weirdest of the weird. The main thing always is rain. Just north of us, they have had plenty. We’re way below speed down here in Canton, Ohio.

It’s not for lack of trying. All summer, lines of storms have followed cold fronts across Lake Erie. They have dipped down as far as Akron, but we just get some sprinkling from the edges. In a normal summer, these guys would be traveling to the Ohio River Valley.

So we’re dry. What else?

When it rains, it pours

When we did get a storm, it was an amazing display. It began with 3-inch hail in my neighborhood, sending the roofers and car dent fixers into a feeding frenzy.

That pretty much was the end of my tomato crop, although others nearby survived with almost no damage.

I cannot forget the pile of hail in front of my garage door or the shredded leaves plastered against our windows. My wife was on Channel 8 News sweeping big piles on the driveway.

The Japanese beetles have been in near-plague proportions in some neighborhoods and nary a one in others. Usually, they mount a coordinated attack countywide. This year is strange.

Weeds this year were, of course, terrible. They sense when grass is weak from no water, and they take over.

My bulb display was perfectly fabulous, thank you, as were the lilies. That is a pleasant memory as I can hardly get any blooms out of my astilbe and portulaca.

We had a mulch scare. Chocolate makers now are chipping their cacao pods into garden mulch, and yes, they smell like peanut clusters. Dogs are eating it and a few are getting sick. Keep your pet on a leash. And don’t use cocoa mulch.

Spotting trends

Every season has its trends. This year, it was growing tomatoes suspended upside down in buckets. I tried it, and in my case, my tomatoes grown the traditional way in the ground beat the topsy-turvy ones by a mile. I was anticipating a good harvest when the hail struck.

Probably more plants were grown this season and more new gardens started than ever before. Garden centers were packed and did a great business despite the economic downturn.

This came as more folks discovered that gardening is an ecology-friendly pursuit. Many people scaled down their summer vacation and spent some of the saved money on improving their landscapes.

Couple this with the desire to escape the soaring food costs and you have a record-setting year.

Another gauge of the season is the number of calls and e-mails we get with gardening questions. There were a lot this year, many centering on what to do about harmful insects.

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