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Gardens soak up the summer sunshine

Posted: July 17, 2013 - 3:26pm  |  Updated: July 17, 2013 - 3:27pm

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.

I planted Arcadia broccoli exclusively this year. Last season I tried just four plants on the recommendation of two gardening friends and was so dazzled with the results that they are now my go-to broccoli. They mature later in the season but at my elevation, 396 feet, the wait is worth it. Higher elevation gardeners may want to hedge your bets with an earlier maturing variety.

I failed the spinach. It has bolted before I got it into the freezer. Tons and tons of it went into salads, which really is the best place for it but, nevertheless, we do like our spinach in the winter. There is chard coming in that will most certainly take its place. 

Keep an eye on everything, this heat is making plants grow, and you want your vegetables to be harvested and not composted. 

The greenhouse is a wonder. We have been eating cucumbers every day all day. Yes, even at breakfast. The tomatoes are ripening. We have been eating Gold Nugget for a week. This tomato replaced Sungold. Mistake. The flavor cannot compare, it is insipid. A travesty. We miss Sungold.  The grandchildren miss Sungold. My friends miss Sungold.

Got the message? If you do not have Sungold in your lineup, get it there.

There are only three Royal Burgundy bean plants in one bin. I keep telling myself each year that three is a crowd and each year I make the same mistake. These beans produce. We have been eating them for 10 days. 

But the catch is they hate to be crowded. And crowded they are. This produces mold that makes the whole plant unhappy. I keep pinching off the nasty parts and crossing my fingers that they continue to crank out wondrous beans.

The same bean is growing luxuriantly in the garden. I set in starts when the soil warms (I use a thermometer) and then cover them with a solar umbrella. Each year I am rewarded. At the moment they are in bloom with their greenhouse cousins producing the crop until they are ready. And ready they will be if history really does repeat.

These beans turn green when cooked but deep purple on the plant. Plus these plants are bushes, so they put their energy into making beans not leaves, and do not need much in the way of support. If you haven’t tried them, put them on next year’s list. 

The greenhouse needs water each and every single day. I can’t miss a beat here, no water, no food. I am opening the door and the vents first thing each morning. There you have it — water and keep the air circulating. 

I lost all of the strawberries and raspberries. And I know I am not the only one, there really is comfort in knowing that.  

I gleaned 10 plants from what survived of my own. I called them “Doris James Strawberries” because I bought the plants from her 15 years ago and have loved them so much ever since. Doris did not know the name of the plants herself, thus the eponym.

Another friend gave me about 30 of what we call Sitka strawberries. These are the pinkish ones that taste lovely, need to be harvested immediately and make a pink flavorful jam. Winner.

A second friend gave me Ft. Laramie. We are actually eating these, not many but enough to be thankful. Three different kinds of strawberries.  This is not something I would normally do. I like conformity in the garden which translates to production. 

But this is an unusual year and I might as well roll with it.

I have never been happy with the raspberry patch. When we lived at Mile 15 East End Road, elevation 1,466 feet, our plants did not produce; they certainly did grow, but no berries. So, coming down here 15 years ago I really wanted raspberries. I got Lathams from a friend and they produced well for several years, but then started having good years and bad years, the bad becoming more prevalent. The drainage in the area where they lived was getting progressively wetter and raspberries do not like wet. This winter was the final blow, although the plants we stuffed next to the driveway are doing just fine growing in the gravel. There you have it. 

All of that aside, I did not like the two row system we had. They were too difficult to tend and harvest. So we are taking advantage of their demise and constructing raised beds for them. I need them in the same location, this is a small plot and there is only so much available space. I am now researching varieties, giving the whole raspberry challenge more thought.

The roses are having a banner year. I have a patch of rosa rugosa “Hansa” that has been allowed to run wild. But this year I paid for that freedom. I needed to get in there and clean out the canes that have been broken down by the snow, damaged by rabbits and otherwise were out of control. I thought that was what I wanted, what they wanted. No. They are a mess. I have done them no favor. 

My son gave me a pair of his coveralls a few years back and I love this garment. Not particularly flattering but, hey, they protect me from the thorns, and the rose gloves I invested in are worth every penny.

I cut out enough old, damaged canes to fill the pickup twice. Come fall I will, on the advice of a friend, cut down the oldest canes to the ground. These also tend to be the tallest. This should get the patch back under control and looking lush instead of straggly.

The Theresa Bugnets are blooming and the scent is what a rose should be. These roses have proven to be hardier than anticipated. Once they are established, and that takes about four years,  stand back. They are gorgeous. A medium pink double.  And the canes, let’s not forget the canes, are a deep red, and, oh, the leaves turn red in the fall. 

Got those on your list? 

“William Baffin” is the one I consider a climber, which is just a rose that sends out long canes that you can train to climb. I had a volunteer that was in the way of a project so I just pulled it up and stuck it in a new location and it is on its way to glory. These are a deep pink and the established plant should soon be rambling in the moose rack on display. I like the juxtaposition.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.

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