CO-Horts Blog

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Farewell, stressful summer

 Posted by: Todd Hagenbuch, Routt County CSU Extension

2020 has been a challenging year, for sure. And while one of the biggest challenges of the year (yes, I’m talking about you, COVID!) 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 in Northwest Colorado 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.

Not a banner year, but we did get some production.

But summer was also cold: my garden suffered a set-back on July 1st 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 juxtapositioned with many cold evenings, which plants struggled with, too.

Late summer and this fall were also 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 which can lead to increased weed competition, less water, etc.

The chickens love grasshoppers, and really love
that they've now been given run of the garden
This summer was 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.

This summer was 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.

And finally, a cold snap now that is seeing well-below-zero temps early: I saw -19 on my way into town today. Most of our trees and perennials have gone into dormancy, but there isn’t much insulating snow around plants. Will our more-sensitive plants that are Zone 4 or 5 suffer as a result? We can often grow things here that can’t survive cold temps because we cover them well with snow before getting below zero. Yet again, we’ll have wait until next year to see what the damage may be.

Yes, this growing season 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. Stay warm this winter and stay well, and take advantage of this time to plan for the warmer days to come.


  1. Thank Goodness for our Routt County Extension Director, our wonderful Agents, our Amazing Admin, CMG's, all our local gardeners, and a big shout out to the New Class of CMG trainees willing to give it a go again in 2021! Hope does Spring Eternal for gardeners!

  2. Thanks for the rehash of the one of the hardest summers I have had in the valley. And Victoria said it perfect..thanks to all the hard work of our amazing Agents etc. Here's to better summers ahead!