Reflections on the 2020 Growing Season

By Nate Dalman, Horticulture Researcher II

October 2020

Welcome to the Garden signThe year 2020 has certainly been a very unique year for all of us and here at WCROC it greatly changed how we operate and what research projects we were able to complete. When the pandemic began in March, we were forced to decide which projects to postpone and which we would be able to complete with our greatly reduced seasonal labor and no volunteer help. Of course, we knew the annual and perennial flower trials must continue uninterrupted. The seeds had been started and transplanting in the greenhouse was in full swing. Hundreds of varieties needed to be cared for and normally dozens of volunteers and several student workers would help with this daunting task, but this year it was just myself. Responsibilities changed and it was now up to me to get all the transplanting and other greenhouse chores completed. It was a whirlwind and the spring flew by quickly, but as I have said before, the greenhouse was a great place to spend the lockdown. 

Before we knew it, it was mid-May and everything was going quite well with the given circumstances. Also at this time, the summer interns were allowed to start working which greatly relieved some of the workload. We started planting the annual gardens on May 21st, the earliest planting date on record here, and by the beginning of June all the annual gardens were planted and we were starting on the perennials even though we were unsure of when, if at all, the gardens would be opened to the public. And then came the excessive heat and droughty conditions that kept us on our toes as we did the best we could to keep the plants healthy. The growing season seemed to be off to a rough start but by the time the gardens opened to the public in early July, things were shaping up quickly and the plants were looking beautiful. All of our hard work was paying off and we were very happy to share our work with garden visitors. 

In addition to the annual and perennial flower trials, our other main projects were the tabletop strawberry growing system, a pepper variety trial, two June-bearing strawberry variety trials, an arctic daisy trial, a shrub hardiness trial, two rose variety trials, a chrysanthemum variety trial and finally a bio-mulch trial looking at new methods of weed suppression. With a list that long it makes you wonder what all projects we were not able to follow through with this year! All these projects going on with less than half our normal workforce made sure there was never a dull moment for the horticulture department. All in all, despite the many challenges and constantly changing pandemic rules, we all lived to tell the tale and successfully completed all of our projects. It will certainly be a year we will always remember for multiple reasons and we hope next year returns to normal and we can see all the friendly volunteer faces to help us with our exciting research projects!