The Northwoods Gardener: Just what the heck is going on around here?
By Jed Buelow
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports and Nature Editor
Perhaps part of the fun, or maybe moreso the frustration, for Northwoods gardeners is the challenges that have to be overcome to bring a crop to harvest as things things change from year to year.
The deer and insects can be a challenge. And Mother Nature can change from day to day. But my real struggle is often self inflicted, as I fail to learn from past lessons that come back to bite me in the bottom almost each and every year.
This year’s ‘oh yeah’ moment came around the Fourth of July, when a friend emailed saying he was just days away from picking his first homegrown tomatoes of the season. Then a few days later, another mentioned that they had just picked their first cucumbers and they tasted delightful on a salad.
While my garden is progressing nicely, it was nowhere near where it would have to be to start picking fresh produce. Heck, I still had flowers on my tomato plants and the cucumbers were still a month or more away from being able to bare fruit – I know it’s a vegetable.
So how were they so much further along than where my garden is? It was confirmed with the cucumbers, which it was learned were started by the school greenhouse and had a leg up on those started in the ground, and then I remembered – I used to always purchase two of those big tomato plants from the greenhouse so I could start picking much, much sooner than most others. This year I forgot to buy any of the big plants, and as a result, my produce season will be much shorter than my friend’s whose already enjoying tasty homegrown tomatoes on his burgers, sandwiches and scrambled eggs.
For a guy who considers the first tomatoes of the season just as valuable as currency, this was a huge mistake realized too late that really hurts. And there’s really nothing that can be done about it since the ones fortunate enough to have tomatoes likely won’t have enough to share and my plants still need a bit more time until I can pick anything to eat. Just like a great singer once said, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
Not to sound too Petty, the songwriter that is, but Delpha Halverson from work offered some sage advice to help fix my tomato craving. On North Fourth Street there is a vendor who sells fresh produce grown somewhere down south. That might just have to work until my crop is ready to harvest. Especially since I would hate to lose a friend and face charges over a simple trespassing misunderstanding.
But outside of relearning the importance of always buying some plants that will start producing well ahead of the others to extend the produce season, it really hasn’t been a bad year for this Northwoods gardener. The deer have been kept in check, the cucumber beetles haven’t destroyed the peas, and even Mother Nature has provided enough rain to prevent the need for too much watering. Heck, even the tomato blight hasn’t been a problem as weekly spraying with a fungicide has kept them nice and green.
I’m not sure what it will be or when it will come, but I still suspect the shoe will drop and something will happen to threaten this year’s garden. Whether self-inflected or by something Mother Nature still has in store, the Northwoods gardener almost always faces a new challenge as everything can and often does change from year to year.