Homer experiences rare, real spring

Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 1:28pm  |  Updated: Apr 22 2015 - 1:28pm
By: Rosemary Fitzpatrick

O, the wonder of bulbs. Over the years I have been reluctant to invest in them. There are too many variables that can lead to failure. Voles eating them and rain rotting them are a couple that pop into mind. 

Thus, I have avoided them, until recently. Over the past few years I have been inclined to stick a few of this and that here and there. Once again, my lack of interest in garden design manifests itself. But what can go wrong? Nothing.

The crocus are almost over, now here comes the chinodoxia, pushkinia and “scilla, scilla, tell me true, why are you so very blue?” I love each and every bloom. As they fade their spent foliage will be concealed by the perennials that they are planted among. Lovely. 

Then there is the fritillaria meleagris. Goodness. I don’t even remember how I got my start with these lovelies. They are gorgeous. You will be able to see them shine at The Bookstore this spring. They are in the front planter boxes. The common name is checkered lily, or snakes head (that’s the drawback to common names, you never really know what someone is talking about). 

They have a perfect check pattern varying from dark purple to white. I have both. They make my heart sing. They seed freely so if you don’t want them everywhere you will need to cut the seed heads off. I let mine go, willy nilly.

Which brings me to the mystery. Their bulbs are lying on the surface of the beds, all winter long. I thought “good, this will thin them out.” No. The naked bulbs are thriving. Yikes. I am known to dig up clumps and hand them out ...

I can hardly wait for the tiny daffodils whose name I have forgotten: Jack Snipe? Tete a tete? Whichever, they are small and lovely. I have a patch that I rob every year. Yes, I just reach in and grab a handful and put them somewhere else. Excellent. 

    The muscari (grape hyacinth) will bloom later on, but not much later. There are more bulbs in the perennial beds for sure but I can’t remember all of them (somewhere there is map and one of these days ...). They are showing signs of life, waiting their turn to delight. 

So far all of the bulbs I have mentioned are minor — small, interesting and hardy. This is the first spring that they have gotten on with their show before the perennials overshadowed them. What a treat. How weird. 

All of my siblings live within a 10-mile radius of each other in Central New York. One of my brothers is a gardener and keeps me informed about what is going on there. For the first time ever we here in the Far North seem to be in the same season with him. Everything that is happening here: the bulbs, the green grass, the leaves unfurling is on a par with his garden. Even the lilacs seem to be in sync. We’ll see. 

The elders and alders are leafing out but not the birch. Methinks the birch know something we don’t. 

There was a time when I loathed grass. I still consider it an invasive weed. But when it all died thanks to the ice of the winter of 2011-12 and it took two seasons for it to recover I have developed a new appreciation for it. It offers a sense of calm, of cohesion to the various sections of the garden. It gives a place for the “grands” to kick balls for Jade the Dog. It goes a long way to keeping the house clean. 

That said, if you are planning a new garden, don’t seed it to grass until you know where your perennial and vegetable beds will be. This is the first year ever that I could have planted crocus in the grass and had them blooming and over before the mowing started. But who knows where this weather is leading us? Not me, won’t even guess. 

The greenhouse is gorgeous. Really, all you need to do is keep it from freezing and the plants will thrive. If you don’t want to heat it, then throw floating row cover over the plants at night. You could be eating lettuce and radishes right about now. Think about that. 

I like to seed in a short row (eight seeds to be exact) of radish every 10 days. This will satisfy our needs until I can seed them outside. Even then I will continue on my every 10 days plan. This goes for lettuce also. You are not feeding the whole town. Let the folks with high tunnels do that and be sure to thank them at the Farmers Market. 

But the tomatoes need a little more than floating row cover. I do like to give mine heat, not a lot, just enough. The temperature has gone down to 36 degrees several times this season. I would prefer it not to dip below 40, but life is not ideal, even for a tomato. Nor do they like to go over 90. So there we are — heating and cooling. It’s a juggling act, and one that has great rewards i.e. BLTs.

 Every year, without fail, I need to restart the cucumbers. The first set of seedlings just hang out looking very very sad. I get two more seeds going on the kitchen counter (just two days ago so you are not late if you are into seed starting). Every year. You would think I’d learn and not try to get an early start with them. They hate it out there until right about now. And then, there will be TOO MANY CUCUMBERS. 

Keep in mind that our excellent nurseries will offer you starts that will thrive be it in your greenhouse or the garden. You don’t need to start from seed. Buy a tomato plant, stick it in a pot and let it rip. They are weeds. You will have tomatoes. 

This is a spring the likes of which we have never seen before. Keep your eyes open and look for the blooming bulbs. They are everywhere.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.

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