Dandelion Crop
by: Mike Lushington

        Unlike many people who try to keep lawns in good order, I like dandelions. I find their dazzling yellow a cheering sight, even in the middle of an otherwise recently mown patch of greenery. At times, I have gotten frustrated with their rather unsightly stems that refuse to lie down even as the mower is passing over them, but, on the whole, I accept and even welcome their presence. I have remarked on occasion that, should they be hard to grow, people would struggle to find places for them in their gardens because they are really attractive flowers. In fact, I have several photographs of fields of them that I consider to be pretty good.

        Has anyone noticed that there are very few dandelions around this summer?

        This really only occurred to me a couple of days ago when I was contemplating whether it was time to mow the lawns once again. I suddenly realized that often the most important reason for mowing at this time of year was to clip back those rather unsightly flower stalks - and that there were none to clip back this year. From there, I realized that it had been some time since I had even seen a blossom on any of my lawns or in the gardens.

        Why this should be so, I have no idea - nor do I know whether it is purely a local phenomenon or whether others have noticed the same thing. I do know that many plants are cyclical in blooming and fruit-bearing over a number of years. There are only going to be a few apples this year, for example. Last year, there were almost none at all, but the year before produced one of the heavier crops in recent years. In all likelihood, next year there will be lots.

        My irises did not bloom this spring, and the cultivated strawberry patch (which admittedly needs a lot of work) didn't do very well, either. The mountain ash trees seem to have only small clumps of berries for fall feed for the birds. On the other hand, raspberries have been abundant and it looks like there will be good quantities of many of the fall small fruit crops - wild cherries, dogwood berries, and the like.

        After a slow start - courtesy of a very wet, cold spring - our main garden is flourishing. Last year's effort was the poorest one in at least twenty-five years. We had almost no corn, no pumpkins or squash, very few tomatoes and cucumbers and only a few zucchinis. This year, on the other hand, we are already anticipating one of the best yielding gardens that we have had in a long time.

        What triggers these cycles and variations in the cycles really remains a mystery to me. The intricate interaction of heat and sunshine, rain, insects to pollinate plants that need that service, populations of those other insects that can cause so much damage (we had almost no cutworms this spring, for example), and so much else all seem to come into play. After years of gardening, I have come to accept that this is reality, even though I don't understand the subtleties of so much of the interplay.

        But I do have to say that I have never seen what amounts to a dandelion crop failure before.


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