Four thoughts for beginning gardeners

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.

Get your ducks in a row, be ready to plant

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

Gardener’s mantra: Be patient, spring is coming

What a glorious day. 

The heat has been turned on in the greenhouse and the high/low thermometer is in place. If the heaters are holding the temperature no lower than 40 to 45 degrees, I will set out the tomatoes, cucumbers, artichokes, leeks and odds and ends of flowers that are thriving in the guest room. I can hardly wait, once these seedlings hit the greenhouse there is no looking back — we are on our way.

Don’t overthink it, just garden

Be prepared to shift your expectations. Anything can happen in March: single digits, a ton of snow, wind. Name it, and be ready. I won’t turn the heat on in the greenhouse until the first week in April. In the meantime, all the starts are under lights in the guest room. Good thing there aren’t any guests. 

Gardening season begins in earnest

February. The days are certainly noticeably longer. The weather certainly noticeably strange. Winter started three weeks ago. Does this mean that it will last until the end of July?  

What to do? 

Pull out your begonias, fuchsias and geraniums and get on with it.  Now.

These stored plants will need a good soak and a sunny, clean window. Thankfully I washed said window when the temps were in the 40s.

Winter: Time to plan for next gardening season

Yes, I am still watering the window box. Yes, I regret pulling the tuber begonias out of said box weeks and weeks ago. They are now in forced retirement. Not a place they want to be. 

They were thriving, blooming, happy as can be and what did I do? Consigned them to the basement, solitary confinement. They are still trying to accept their cruel fate. 

Once they have dried I will pull them from their pots, remove the soil, and put each tuber into a brown paper bag and — well, wish them luck. 

Bulbs, bulbs and more bulbs; now’s the time for planting

I find it a bit unusual to compose a bouquet in October of lilacs, roses, primroses and pale yellow trollius. Lovely yes, odd — definitely. 

All of these plants have given me a gentle second bloom now and then over the years, but nothing like this. My garden is more lovely now than it was in late June.  

What about eating huge, gorgeous strawberries in October? Here we are. The grands love each and every bite.

Kale finds place in garden, freezer

I have embraced kale. Last growing season I started four plants by directly seeding them into the plot. It was a very long time before I got anything that looked productive. By then I was not all that interested. But this year I set out four strong seedlings, conferred with friends who are believers and now have four kale nubs out in the garden. I researched the nutritional value of kale and had every intention of sharing that with you but, hey, the list of benefits is long and, actually, somewhat boring. My interest is that it’s tasty.

No slugs devouring this Homer garden

Slugs? Slugs? What slugs? There aren’t any in this garden. They must be in yours. Or, better yet, the ice sheet of winter past got the best of them. 

This is the first time at this site that my garden is not being devoured by these mollusks. I like it. Not only is the garden free of them, but they are not crawling up the side of the house and the windows, leaving very stubborn slime trails.

Gardens soak up the summer sunshine

This is proving to be an astounding growing season. The vegetable garden is producing with a single-minded purpose — to fill our freezer. 

I have top-dressed (added a thin layer of feeding mulch) once and the plants have responded with gusto. I won’t do this again this season. I am leaving the plants to themselves and my job now is to tend and harvest.

When it comes to gardening, follow this advice: Do what pleases you

So there I am, my friend has asked me about his honeysuckle that has three live leaves. It was planted six inches from the wall of his house probably 30 years ago by a former owner. It needs to go. Now. I suggest this. Emphatically. I can read his face — who couldn’t? He does not want to cut it down. We go back and forth.

Cecilia, my 8-year-old granddaughter, cuts to the chase. She looks him in the eye and says, “Do what pleases you.”

And that’s it in a nutshell.

Finding right spot for right plant perennial challenge for gardeners

The iris setosa (our native iris) thrives in a very boggy area of the garden. There are even marsh marigolds tucked in among them. Whenever I am mucking around in there I think back to the adult mink that paid a visit to our garden six years ago, and I start to wonder if it, or a relative, is lurking among the iris. 

Damage from winter’s ice presents Homer gardeners with all sorts of opportunities

It is a tad difficult to be upbeat when the majority of the plants in my perennial beds are dead. I will consider this an opportunity. A chance to correct some irksome mistakes. A chance to simplify. 

Those gorgeous Black Knight Pacific Giant delphiniums that have been thriving along the railing of the deck for the last 15 years are no more. I brought them down with me from mile 15 East End where they lived for 20 years and were given to me, so who knows how old they were.

Give seedlings time to acclimate to spring

The seedlings have been lingering in the greenhouse longer than intended. Gee, I wonder why ... They are close to root bound and need more space. My Internet connection to Yahoo Weather is overheating (I’m glad something is) and the tentative forecast is for overcast/rain/warmer, just exactly what we need. So the question is:
Do I move seedlings to larger quarters or hang in there and wait? Larger containers it is (I tossed a coin).

Be prepared for a late gardening start

It is cold. Really cold. So as I bundled up and reminded myself that I do indeed live at latitude 59 degrees north and that I have done so for 41 years by choice. Hence, I should not be surprised, or discouraged, or disappointed, or jealous of those gardeners who do not call the Last Frontier home. Thank you, I needed to get that out of my system. Now, lets get on with what needs to be done.

Now’s the time to think about trees, shrubs

"April is the cruellest month ..."

–— T.S.Eliot

And here we are enduring a very nasty April indeed. We have been given mostly snow today. Not bad, better than ice.

I need you to be thinking about trees and shrubs. About planting them to soften your landscape; to add dimension and interest; to make your house not look like it was dropped from outer space; to make your garden think you really care.

Is that too much to ask? No.

Prune your trees. Now.

Editor’s Note: For 20 years Rosemary Fitzpatrick encouraged area gardeners in her column in the Homer News, the Kachemak Gardener. She took a break, but is back this year with one goal in mind: to help you realize your gardening dreams.



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