Those of you who grow apples have scoffed at my columnar apple tree. It has been said that it isn’t a “real” apple tree. But, in my defense, it has served a purpose: I have been able to say, yes, I have an apple tree.
The fact is that I don’t want an apple tree. The only thing I like about them are the blooms. I don’t like their growth habit, therefore, I don’t like to look at them.
There was a point in Homer apple history that the only ones that bore fruit of any significance were Norland and Parkland, both produce apples best suited for juicing. I am not interested in juicing. I have wanted an apple that snaps when bitten. This may have something to do with a childhood spent in Central New York apple country. There were hundreds of different kinds of apples to choose from and there was a different one for every use and recipe.
So, in 2005 I succumbed to the pressure of not having an apple tree and planted a columnar “Northpole.” The description is “a red apple to be eaten out of hand,” which is what I want in an apple, more or less.
My thinking went this way: It wouldn’t take up much room. Their habit is to grow straight up for about six feet and 18 inches across. It looks odd. But, really, people will stand in this garden, surrounded by an eight foot fence, and question how many times the moose have gnawed on this tree. No. No moose. Just a tree that is bred to take up very little room and, supposedly, produce fruit.
I tucked it into the strawberry bed and everything bloomed at once and what a sight. Delightful. But nary an apple. Then, about four years ago, when climate change really got swinging, it started setting apples. They didn’t ripen until — THIS YEAR.
Yes, this year I have apples. Red. It hasn’t taken up any room, sets gorgeous blooms, is a conversation piece, and the “grands” are forever in hope of eating apples that they have picked from the tree. I’m giving the apples one more week on the tree before we pick and see what they actually taste like. If they are as good as they look, we’re in luck.
If you have bulbs to plant it would be best to get them into the ground. I have yet to figure out the transplanting of bulbs. When? Well, I wait until spring. Why? Because, even with the best of intentions, I don’t remember where I planted what. They all come up during the early weeks of the garden and reward me for my efforts and I love them to no end and take endless pictures and, and, and ... forget about them.
But their clumps get really large and there are now enough to spread the wealth around. So, I wait until they come up in the spring and I go “oh, I remember you” and take a trowel full from that clump and move to someplace that doesn’t have anything showing. How’s that for a plan? Plus, I let them go to seed and they seem to take care of the spreading around on their own, which is even better.
I used to worry about bulbs. They can be expensive and I am always and forever a cheap gardener. I have heard about rodents eating them but I have yet to have that happen to mine. Nor do they freeze out. Even the “The Ice of ’12”didn’t kill them. It slowed them down but they came back the next year with gusto. Can’t ask for more than that.
The vegetable garden is interesting. I have left the Brussels sprouts and kale in place until I get around to making a harvest. There’s no need to hurry with either of those.
But this year I’m leaving in the Green Globe artichokes. They are perennials but don’t make it over winter no matter how I mulch. So each spring I start new plants. This is simple and they produce about dozen ’chokes from each plant. But with the mild winters we have been experiencing my wont is to leave them in situ. When their foliage is spent I will cut them down, maybe throw a spruce bough over them and — wait and see. Interesting.
I threw around some prilled lime, spread compost, mixed it in with a long handled cultivator and am calling it good. The garlic is planted. The vegetable plot is put to bed.
But that brings me to succession planting. This is where you keep planting into the fall: radish, lettuce, even cole crops. I am forever wondering how anything could possibly survive the slug onslaught. So my answer is to plant lettuce, radish and spinach in the greenhouse. Every fall we remove the season’s compost that has served us so well and replace it with the next batch. So one bin is devoted to producing food with no heat, light and very little water. It sort of works, might keep getting better, and if so I don’t want to miss anything.
Keep gardening, it isn’t over.
NOTE: A presidential election year is your cue to pump the septic tank. Think about that, but not too hard.
Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing the Kachemak Gardener since 1990.