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Monday, February 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Home and garden

In the Garden: Crazy weather hit at start, end of growing season

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 7, 2019

Last weekend’s early snowstorm and subsequent cold temperatures brought the 2019 garden season to an abrupt end. (Susan Mulvihill/For The Spokesman-Review)
Last weekend’s early snowstorm and subsequent cold temperatures brought the 2019 garden season to an abrupt end. (Susan Mulvihill/For The Spokesman-Review)

Is it just me or was this the fastest gardening season ever? The late burst of wintry conditions we experienced from February to April prevented us from getting an early start. But the fact is fall is here, and it’s time to wrap things up.

One of this year’s highlights is the pollinator garden my husband and I created in May. For this project, we eliminated a large chunk of our front lawn, added soil and planted mostly drought-tolerant, pollinator-attracting annuals and perennials.

Most plants got off to a slow start, but they soon hit their stride and surpassed expectations. Pollinators of every kind were buzzing and flitting about the garden. Did we see monarch butterflies?

No, but we spotted plenty of tiger swallowtails, painted ladies, skippers and even a red admiral butterfly. The hummingbirds approved of our plant choices, as well, with the spotted bee balm, red hot poker, coneflower and penstemon being their favorites.

In general, our vegetable garden produced heavily for us, but we did have challenges. The first came in a realization that an area of our garden wasn’t getting as much water as we thought.

Yes, irrigation projects are in our future. The other challenges included occasional visits by porcupines and a squirrel that stopped by for a day and helped itself to cucumbers and other lovingly tended veggies.

The biggest challenge, by far, was the relentless onslaught of earwigs. While these insects help with plant decomposition, they apparently had decided to munch plants to death to get the process rolling. I’ve heard from so many gardeners dealing with the same problem. It makes me wonder what was different about this year.

Many crops were the stars of the garden: productive, 6-foot-tall Green Arrow pea vines that didn’t know they were only supposed to grow 28 inches tall; sweet and succulent Tuscan Napoli cantaloupes and Ha Ogen honeydew melons; and the best Cushaw winter squash patch this side of the Mississippi (in my humble opinion).

Also, my first patch of rutabagas with massive roots that could double as bowling balls in a pinch; plenty of Sweetness Bi-color corn to satisfy our needs; a decent harvest of cucamelons; and impressive hauls of Gilbertie paste tomatoes that were quickly converted into batches of sauce and salsa.

I would like to say my first-ever crop of yardlong beans was delicious, but the earwigs ate them into oblivion before they could produce anything. Even so, the sheer volume of produce that came from our garden will keep us well fed through the coming months.

As I reflect on this season, I am impressed by the number of local events that provided gardeners with inspiration and plants for their gardens. Those plants came from the orchid show, Spokane County Master Gardeners’ and Associated Garden Clubs’ plant sales, Garden Expo and the Friends of Manito spring and fall plant sales.

The Spokane in Bloom and Coeur d’Alene garden tours didn’t disappoint. The Cabin Fever Gardening Symposium, rose show, Spokane Dahlia Festival and Joe Lamp’l’s upcoming appearance at the fall banquet are the icing on top. Inland Northwest gardeners are so fortunate to be part of such a vibrant gardening community.

This is my final weekly column for the 2019 garden season, but I will be writing monthly columns through the fall and winter starting on Nov. 3.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Contact her at Watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow a Garden” video on

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