This would be an ideal time for you to pick out a spot on your lawn and turn it into a vegetable patch. Seriously. Now.
In spite of the rain we took off in our camper and drove the Denali Highway. Goodness. Gorgeous fall colors although we were too late for blueberries of which there are miles and miles of them. If this is a trip you have yet to take, do consider it. The road is gravel/mud and quite rough; the lodges are minimal so a camper is a good idea. Wildlife was few and far between. Hunting season was in full swing so we think the animals were driven back from the road. But we did see trumpeter swans, one family had six cygnets which must be some kind of record. Northern hawk owls, robins, Canada jays, ravens and a shrike rounded up the count. Interesting. We also observed spruce expanding their boundaries from tree line up the mountain sides. We have read about this but the evidence was clear. Changing climate.
It’s been so long since we had a blue sky. What a relief. I’m waterlogged and a tad grumpy and faced with way too much chard. While I was musing on this state of affairs the cranes made their collective decision to leave. And what an exit! I’m fortunate to garden because I am usually outside when the migration is in full swing. Today I got to share the experience with my book club. Excellent company to view a natural phenomena. What a day!
I’m a reluctant harvester, but harvest I must. After all, that’s the point of raising vegetables. The chard is getting its umpteenth cutting. We will be eating chard until the end of time. All this from a 3-foot square planted from seed. The stuff just won’t quit.
Friend and neighbor Sharon Baur has a delightful greenhouse. It is the perfect size for a small family. Really, how many tomatoes do you need? She and her husband, Marvin, harvested a lovely tomato (of course, she can’t remember the name of it) and made the one and only BLT that they will consume this season. And its gorgeous. If you too have dietary restrictions, toss them aside for one wonderful splurge and let that be a homemade BLT. Inside her tiny greenhouse are a couple of tomato plants and a gorgeous bell pepper “Tequila Red.” Really, who could ask for more?
We are now deep into the growing season and the vegetable harvest is well underway. All of the Romanesque cauliflower is in the freezer and the broccoli (Packman and Arcadia) continues to throw side shoots. The slugs are shy this season, possibly waiting for serious rain to start, so the lettuce is still in good supply.
Every growing season the garden is a different story. We gardeners never know what is going to thrive or stall. This year I have Magic Fountain delphiniums that have doubled their projected size. Needless to say, they don’t fit where they are planted, much to my chagrin and the lilies that are being crowded. If I had any inkling this was going to happen I would have divided them this spring. But no. So there they loom, a formidable presence in what would otherwise be a serene setting.
I have a new tool and I think I may be in love. It is a torch that I can use standing up to burn the plants growing in the stone pathway. I am finished, done, over, not ever again, weeding between these pieces of slate that we “harvested” along the highway near Hope. John called it “subsistence rocking” at the time. These rocks have broken off the main face and fallen into the ditch. Keep your eyes open if you are interested in creating a stone path. But, more important, get one of these torches first. They are locally available.
I stepped out the door this afternoon and the air was thrumming. The sound was somewhat like a chorus toning. It took a few minutes of intense listening to determine that the entire prunus virginiana “Shubert” was covered with honey bees. Covered. They definitely added an aural dimension to my day.
Where to start?
Strawberries are fraught with enemies. For you to have a bowl of these beauties on your kitchen counter you need to put in some effort. Yes, there will be weeds among the plants; yes, slugs will damage the crop; yes, birds will tear them to bits ; yes, moose will pull up the whole plant and eat it; yes, you need to do something to help them. They are so worth it. Our strawberries may not be the huge red-all-the-way-through product you get at the grocery store. Be thankful. Ours are delicious. Smaller, paler and sublime.
While fulfilling my civic obligation of jury duty this month I met some lovely people and was reminded that I am losing touch with those of you who live at the higher elevations. There is nothing like being in a large (or small, depending on the stage of the process) room with a couple of dozen bored adults who have been waiting an hour and a half for the ball to get rolling. Might as well strike up a conversation about gardening.
Almost everyone loves March. This one in particular, with the big blue sky, sparkly stars, has been the darling of the months. My husband is skiing and using his snowmachine to his heart’s delight. The days are so very obviously longer. The snow is fabulous for protecting plants.
We bought our daughter’s car and made the decision that rather than let it moulder in her climate we would bring it home now. We have made the trip in the winter before and know that, if the weather is in our favor, and that’s a giant “if,” the road can be traveled with speed and determination.
On Mondays John and I go on a “dump date.” We load the pickup (and for the two of us there certainly isn’t very much going out of here), each get a coffee, split a cookie and head to the dump. Now here comes the best part: We take the long way home. Up Diamond Ridge, over Skyline, down East Hill or some configuration of that. We often head out East to ski at McNeil. Once we even made it to Hope for breakfast. It keeps me in touch with what’s going on at different elevations. I am really comfortable here at 396 feet and need a reminder of what you are experiencing.
Let’s revisit spruce aphids. I’m hearing lots of talk about how lucky we are to have cold temperatures after too many warm winters and how detrimental to the aphids this will be.
Where to start? The last two weeks have been so full, so interesting, so busy. And all of this in the garden. I can’t imagine life without it. So this column will be a bit disjointed, stick with it and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting and, hopefully, useful.
Warm temperatures and just enough rain. What gardener could ask for more? The garden has resoundingly responded. Lush. Productive. Gorgeous. In the 44 years I’ve lived in Alaska I’ve never had a garden like this. I will hold the memory of this growing season close to my heart because who knows what surprise we’ll get next year.
Each and every growing season there is one something that astonishes, that amazes, that speaks to our hearts. And this year it’s lilacs. Their season is short and this time around about three weeks early. I can usually count on them to be blooming for the Fourth of July barbecue. Not this year, they will be way done. But for now let’s all revel in their magnificence.