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Odd weather has left us with winners, losers

How is your vegetable garden coming along? It’s safe to say the biggest challenge Inland Northwest gardeners have faced this season has been the weather.

One of my crop failures has been the eggplants. They still look about the same as when I planted them at the end of May.

I should have covered them with a floating row cover for a few weeks to give the plants a little extra protection against the cold temperatures. At planting time, I never gave it a thought because I had already put down a layer of red plastic mulch to warm up the soil.

Any other year, that would’ve been all they needed – but not this year.

Another problem I encountered was that the shallot bulbs rotted in the soil. It was just too cold and damp for them to sprout and grow. Fortunately, I can buy shallots at the farmers markets.

What were the successes? As usual, the pole beans have outdone themselves.

I’m growing them on an arbor over a garden path for easier picking and to save space. The variety is ‘Italian pole bean,’ and they are absolutely delicious.

The zucchini have also been feeding us well. I grew both ‘Romanesco’ and a round variety called ‘Ronde de Nice.’ They apparently didn’t mind the slow start to the season.

I have two raised beds of onions that are doing nicely. The first bed has plants that I started from seed way back in February; I chose ‘Cipollini,’ ‘Walla Walla Sweet’ and ‘Early Yellow Globe’ for the varieties.

The other bed contains onion plants from Dixondale Farms that a reader shared with me. ‘Copra,’ ‘Red Zeppelin’ and ‘Ringmaster’ are the varieties.

All are forming large bulbs and the stalks are starting to fall over, a cue that the plants are just about ready to be harvested. Most will be dried for storage.

Another success has been the beet crop. This year, I remembered to cover their bed with a floating row cover to keep those nasty leaf miners off the leaves. I grew ‘Golden,’ ‘Jewel-Toned’ and ‘Chioggia.’

I really like growing tomato plants along sections of wire fencing because they are easier to tie up and you can squeeze more plants into a small area.

Once I transplanted the seedlings into the garden in late May, most of the plants just sat there because they didn’t like our cool temperatures. Ever since the weather warmed up, they’ve been trying to make up for lost time.

I’m growing ‘Pompeii,’ ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Sun Gold’ and ‘Golden Grape.’ I wish I had chosen really short-season tomato varieties because if there ever was a year when plants needed to grow quickly, this was it.

I recently starting trimming off the growing tips of each plant to help them focus on ripening the tomatoes. If there are a lot of green tomatoes on the vines when fall gets here, I’ll just harvest them and ripen them in the basement in between layers of newspaper.

Since we didn’t grow potatoes this year – due to last year’s plants succumbing to blight – I had extra room to grow winter squash and pumpkins. The vines have small developing fruit on them, so I’ve pinched back the tips to encourage the plants to ripen everything rather than just grow leaves.

The squash varieties are ‘Red Kuri,’ ‘Sweet Dumpling’ and ‘Buttercup.’ I chose ‘New England Pie’ and ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’ for the pumpkins.

Let’s all hope for a late frost and an Indian summer to extend the season.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at Visit her blog at for more gardening tips and information.