MY POINT IS... A grueling but great garden season

To say the year of 2020 has been uneventful would definitely be the understatement of the century.

This year - the one many coined with the 20/20 perfect vision - certainly took the world by surprise as this new and unknown virus swept across the globe and changed life as we know it. If there is any good that has come from this situation, it should be the awareness that we as Americans definitely took our freedoms for granted. We transformed from a hustle-bustle society of going and doing to the being captive within our own homes - an area that has hopefully strengthened family ties and made each of us more aware of the role each member of a family truly plays in its success.

While we lament the elimination of sporting events, large gatherings, musical venues and all the things that we have incorporated into our personal lives, there are always positives in every situation - although we often must delve a bit deeper into our hearts and minds to know the value of family and friends.

Swimming pools, alcohol and toilet paper became obsolete items, while gardening seemingly picked up immensely as the pandemic spread through America. That was demonstrated in late spring when supplies of food were reportedly running low and canning supply prices skyrocketed far higher than any gas price hike in the history of modern society. While local store shelves ran out of stock for jars, lids, rings and pre-mixed packets of canning accessories, private individuals took full advantage of the opportunity to make a profit from the pandemic - many selling their stock of jars at a 200-plus percent profit. Others paid the high price of supplies by ordering online - often paying nearly as much in shipping costs as the total price of the items.

But gardeners, especially in Kentucky, had other challenges as well as finding supplies. Torrents of rain in the spring made planting nearly impossible, then the following steamy hot days often dried up the rain-soaked ground, making garden growth almost impossible. More days of rain rotted many of the budding and sprouting plants, creating a panic for most first-time as well as seasoned gardeners and usually resulting in mass re-plantings.

My own garden was a difficult challenge this year. Whether the lack of growth can be attributed to the rain, hot sun, out of date seeds, or just a fate of Nature, the gardening season this year took an abrupt turn toward the negative. Six hills of potatoes were the result of three separate plantings of three garden rows. Green pepper plants experienced a shortage - until they bore a hefty price of $4 each, causing my own garden to boast hot banana peppers rather than the traditional green and red bell peppers. Tomatoes did well, with the exception being the rodents and deer that decided early on that their own feeding habits overshadowed the grower's dreams for greatness; the sole okra plant from an entire row produced almost enough for a one-person meal.

Cucumbers and squash did exceptionally well - nearly overwhelming growers with their massive production. Corn was somewhat calmer, although one entire shelf in a chest freezer boasts freshly raised corn on the cob and a few freezer bags of cut-off corn. The pigs escaped their pen and assisted us in eliminating an entire row of cabbage and broccoli - and re-landscaped a good portion of the yard. Beans, regardless of the weather, always produce well, although by growing season each year, I have sworn to never eat another bean!

The biggest shock of all, however, was the number of cantaloupes and watermelons that soaked up the excessive rain and sunshine this year.

We had watched the vines exhibiting massive blooms and hoped that a few of those crops would come to fruition during the summer and amazingly enough, we weren't disappointed there. The watermelons and cantaloupes offered a massive crop. The cantaloupes turned the desired beige in late August, but the rain storms moved in and quickly rotted many of both crops while they were still waiting to ripen. Although planted in late June, they continued to flourish in the summer weather with the largest watermelon weighing in on the bathroom scale at 36 pounds! We are not sure if that is a prize winner or not - but it's definitely the largest watermelon ever grown in my garden. We've let it sit in the sun to complete the ripening process, but whether it is tasty or not - the fact remains that this year was a banner year for watermelon growth and a boasting point for my own gardening experiences.

Nita Johnson is a staff writer with The Sentinel-Echo and can be contacted at njohnson@sentinel-echo.com.

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