have given March the lions share of my thinking this winter. March does not agree with me. Not ever. But I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could make it work in my favor. I could find a way to burn through it. So I looked up from the end of my nose to see what I could see and lo, there is much to be made of this month-that-makes-winter-seem-like-it-lasts-forever.
“... and o, the winds do blow. ...”
Cold winds. Single digits for the next five days or so. Who knows?
I have been coaching my plants: “Don’t listen to the varied thrush. They’re early. Don’t you follow suit. Hang on. Wait. Patience. Survive. Pleasepleaseplease ...”
I’m grateful for the spruce boughs that have been covering the perennial beds throughout this very mild winter. I often thought that they were out there for naught. No. They are right where they should be — protecting perennials from the vagaries of March and April.
The very best aspect of procreation are the ensuing grandchildren. Cecilia, our 9-year-old granddaughter, has recently moved from Hidden Hills to part way up East Hill. She has been studying the lay of the land at their new house. Plotting a vegetable garden. Thinking about hanging baskets and containers on the deck. Scrutinizing the existing perennials. Asking questions. Ah yes, the questions. I could listen to them all day.
Update: This article has been updated with a note at the end of the article noting that tilapia fish are illegal to grow in Alaska.
In midwinter when Homer seems gray and gloomy, the prospect of fresh vegetables at the Homer Farmers Market can’t come soon enough. Two growers experimenting with aquaponics, the merger of aquaculture with hydroponic gardening, have introduced into local markets something that might seem unimaginable in January: fresh, vibrant green veggies.
So there I am, fussing around in the west garden and I get buzzed by a hummingbird. This is October. Granted, we had a family of four in residence all summer. I think there may be a nest to be seen when the leaves are gone.
Little is known about the migratory habits of hummingbirds, but Alaska hummers are usually gone by the end of August. It appears to be an immature rufous but don’t place any bets on that. Try as I might, my identification skills are lacking.
I just finished a charming book: “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” by Marta McDowell. The second half gave me food for thought. It went into detail about her garden, the quintessential cottage garden that England is known for and many of us strive to achieve.
With the moon near full, I found myself sleepless at 3 a.m. and took to my gardening book shelf. You would think that as our growing season winds down, this would not be the time to plan for next season. Au contraire.
The strawberries are setting fruit — again. I really am impressed by the quantity of berries that John harvested from our two beds. We haven’t had strawberries the likes of this in many years. So I had to ask him the obvious: “Are you man enough to keep picking berries?”
Not only was his answer affirmative but we got in the boat and headed across the bay to blueberry heaven. Three trips and who knows if we have enough to see us through the winter. We are delighted. The grands are delighted. Win/win.
Yet another oddly gorgeous day. Who needs any more studies on climate change — just ask a gardener.
It started to drizzle while I was wrapping up the gardening this afternoon and it was WARM drizzle, not cold. I did not seek shelter, I just carried on. Interesting.
Hold this growing season close to your heart. Treat it like a treasure to be taken from its cache in the depths of January and lovingly remembered. This is truly a glorious summer.
That said, the slugs are here. I have long resisted the wholesale killing of these mollusks; after all I have created the perfect environment just by dint of planting a garden. Easy pickings.
One has only to look as far as the Homer Garden Club for a definition of “perennial.” The club’s roots can be found in a letter written to local gardener Shirley Forquer from Lois Schneyer in February 1984. It has been growing ever since.
Birds! Hummingbirds to be exact. Never ever have we had them stay around like this. Usually we catch a glimpse and are delighted, but this season they are here for the long haul. We have even heard them “talking” to each other — they sound like a cartoon bird. We have at least a pair and maybe two others. What fun!
I regret the size of our deck, too small. The idea behind this house and garden was for the two of us to age into it. Both are compact. Little did I know just how many people would gather here. Friends and family, lots of both. What a joy.
At the moment our daughter and her two daughters are here for two weeks. We could use more deck on the east side, where we have tea/coffee in the morning, catching the sun on the lilacs, watching the birds at the feeder and the bird bath, listening to the neighborhood rally for a new day.
For the last two weeks this garden has been put to excellent use — grandchildren. Our daughter, Andrea, came “home” with her daughters. These two delightful beings were added to the permanent installation grandchildren of three. What fun!
They ran and chased and hid and ate and relentlessly looked for fairies (who dutifully fill a fairy box each and every day that the “grands” must find, because fairies are pretty tricky).
Mysterious weather. On Sunday morning, with rain threatening, I watered. Even though we had a deluge the day before the ground really isn’t all that wet. Go look. Stick your finger down in there and see what you come up with. It is still dry.
So watering is on my agenda. The gray sky did not produce any rain and the weather reports don’t seem to offer any accuracy. Looking out the window still seems like the best bet. We’ll see what the future brings.
I was recently asked a very simple question: What is the best thing happening in your garden right now? Without missing a beat I replied: My husband. There is never a simple answer ... .
* * *
The Market season has started. Last weekend was a flurry of activity, great warm weather (the smoke even cleared in the afternoon) and lots of produce, starts and crafts.
There were plenty of familiar and new things to take in. Everyone got to try out the new layout and see the familiar faces of the vendors. The Market opened with the familiar sounds of Shamwari Marimba and then in the afternoon the stage was graced with the random appearance of a gypsy jazz band, the Hot Club of Nunaka Valley, performing later that day in Seldovia.
Zounds! It is late Saturday and I have spent the day stuffing every available space in the perennial beds with annuals. I know, don’t plant out your tender starts on a sunny day, but there hasn’t been anything else so one needs to get the job done, and done it is. What a relief.
You could finally see it starting last weekend, the welcome sight of the tents going up at the Homer Farmers Market. This Memorial Day weekend the Market starts at 10 a.m. Saturday. As the weather would suggest, things are growing like crazy so you will be able to find all kinds of eager veggies to take home and starts for your own garden.
My mind is jam packed with worry about you new gardeners. You are at the forefront of my thought process. What to do about you?
All of this mental agitation has been instigated by my neighbors who have moved one lot over into a new house with so very much gardening potential. They invited me over to give them some tips. I quickly realized that they would get more out of me by visiting my garden and bearing witness to my mistakes. They got the point and altered their plans.
But what about you? Well, I decided to give you a list of thoughts to mull over.
This is the very most excellent time of year.
I found myself in the unenviable position of cooling my heels in a waiting room, on a beautiful afternoon no less. No one wants this experience, but there I was. As I settled down to read a time-worn and uninteresting magazine I noticed that the conversation among these strangers was in full swing. And it was all about gardens. Keep in mind these people had zero connection to each other — except the same waiting room.
The topic was tomatoes and these three people were comparing notes