Master Gardener: Gardening during COVID-19 and a challenging summer |

Master Gardener: Gardening during COVID-19 and a challenging summer

Todd Hagenbuch
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

This year, 2020, has been a challenging year, for sure. And while one of the biggest challenges of the year, COVID-19, led to increased interest in gardening, Mother Nature made it a hard year to grow the plants we had time to tend to. If you were a first-year or novice gardener in 2020 and felt like you had a lot to overcome, you weren’t alone.

Besides being somewhat off due to the pandemic, this summer was also:

Hot and dry: Plants that had a good start with our warm spring were shocked to have to survive the blistering heat that July and August brought. In fact, August was the hottest and driest on record in Routt County, according to state climatologist Russ Schumacher. Our typical cool-season plants bolted early, wilted often and suffered from the heat.

Cold: My garden suffered a setback on July 1 when an unexpected, and unwelcomed, frost hit my garden hard. Our zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers never really recovered. The hot days we had were juxtaposed with many cold evenings, which plants struggled with, too.

Smoky: That thick haze can create a diffused light pattern, which can help plants, but it can also keep the gardener out of the garden that can lead to increased weed competition, less water, etc.

Great for grasshoppers: Lack of regular moisture in the late spring meant that grasshoppers had no real natural control early in their life cycle this year, so we saw big numbers in late summer. They also had a voracious appetite. Many flowers and vegetables fell victim to their gnawing.

Tough on trees: Many trees in yards budded early when we got the first wave of hot weather, only to be damaged as more seasonable temps came back and froze the new, early growth. This can cause long-term damage to trees, so it will be interesting to see how they look in spring 2021. And who can think about the wackiness of this summer and not discuss the amazing wind that struck the day after Labor Day? Many mature, beautiful trees broke limbs and branches, snapped in half or were just uprooted by hurricane force winds. Again, a lot of long-term damage due to this storm will manifest over the next few years, so we don’t yet know what the total damage will be.

Yes, this summer is one we won’t be sorry to see go from a plant-health perspective, but it is one we hate to see go for so many other reasons, mostly because we know a long winter is ahead of us. We also know it means an end of this weekly column written by our fantastic Colorado Master Gardener volunteers here in Routt County. 

Master Gardener: For more

Colorado State University Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions. Email or call the CSU Extension office at 970-879-0825 and ask to leave a message for the Master Gardeners. Thursday morning office hours and scheduled site visits are currently suspended.

Thank you for joining us this year, and remember that, regardless of the season, the CSU Master Gardeners and the Routt County Extension Office are here to help you conquer any gardening challenges thrown your way.

Todd Hagenbuch is county director and agriculture agent with the Routt County Extension Office.

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