No slugs devouring this Homer garden
As fall approaches, some gardens looking better than they have all summer
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.
About that sheet of ice and the killing frost the third week in May: Everything in this garden is late. Here we are, September and this garden hasn’t looked this good, this tended, this lush all summer. What is going to happen? What about the new tender growth on the lilacs, roses and red twigged dogwoods?
There are buds galore on the dwarf Korean lilacs. The James McFarland lilac is in full bloom for the second time. This lilac will throw off rather insignificant blooms late in the season every two or three years but nothing like this. It is actually quite lovely albeit unexpected and a bit worrisome.
The Amur chokecherry has had tiny leaves if any at all this summer. But now it isn’t looking so very challenged. It may not look hearty but at least it no longer looks frail. There may be hope.
The red twigged dogwoods that I had given up hope for are lovely. I did not get around to trimming off the dead branches — it was daunting and there were much more important fires to put out. I chose to ignore them, to their benefit apparently. They will get a major pruning late winter or very early spring; they really do need it.
The clematis alpina has about a dozen green leaves on it. I plan on cutting it down and let the seedlings at its base take over.
The roses have had a good year of it. They have bloomed and put on new growth, a little weak. I plan on offering them support so the winter snows (if we have any) won’t break them down.
The only plants I have that have behaved “normal” are the mock orange. There are three of them gracing this one-third acre and I have been grateful to them every single day this summer. Even out of bloom, as they are now, their arching habit is graceful and much appreciated. If you don’t have one of these yet, do put it on your plant list for next year.
And the grass, oh the grass. Although we raked and threw seed around, nothing much came of it. But it has been slowly filling itself in. I resisted tilling the whole thing and starting over. The thought of the 70-pound dog coming and going through freshly plowed earth a thousand times a day made that decision easy. So we used the wait-and-see approach and it has proved itself worthy.
Where the grass has come back completely there are very few weeds. I have always considered grass to be our most invasive species. It is dominating what few weeds are making an attempt to gain a root hold. Bless grass.
I stuffed annuals into the empty perennial beds this spring. I really need to make a note that cosmos get huge. I have them planted too closely and they are getting moldy. But they certainly have been striking, and they make a lovely bouquet.
Ditto the godetia. I love these two annuals. They bloom mid to late season, offering color when the perennials are done. That is the real beauty of annuals. I think perennial beds without annuals are a bit boring. Keep the spent blooms pinched off your annuals and they will continue to bloom until snow/frost.
And this brings me to hornets. They have been the talk of the town. They have been a constant and very annoying presence. Then on Aug. 31 they disappeared. I was in the garden from 1-9 p.m. and nary a hornet was to be seen. I don’t miss them. But it seemed like a switch was thrown and they went to wherever it is hornets go. Hell?
And what about urban honey bees? At first I thought they were cool. But as the years roll by and my flowers are totally covered in honey bees day in and day out from the very first bulb bloom to now I am thinking this is more like an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
I also think that if you are going to raise bees you need to raise enough flowers to keep them home.
I have ordered bulbs for fall planting. That is the only thing I plant in the fall. I know, I know. There are those who promote fall planting but I have not had all that great luck. We just never know when fall is going to suddenly turn into winter and if those plants are really going to have enough time to settle in. In the spring you can make the assessment of what has survived and what needs to be replaced. It saves time and money.
But bulbs are another story. I love the minor bulbs, those that run from six to 10 inches. They are so precious (albeit covered in honey bees). There have never been enough of them where they can be seen from the house, so that has been rectified. There will be oodles. I hope.
I even caved in for tulips. I was influenced by a friend and her need for tulips. I usually avoid them, they tend to behave like annuals, but there they were and they are now mine.
I am harvesting like mad. The temperatures are so very warm, so unseasonable. I went ahead and dug the potatoes. The vines were completely down so I decided to put them in the basement.
But the onions, shallots and half the garlic are looking like they could go on forever. This has been a banner year for the vegetable garden. The beets are gorgeous. The carrots are being devoured by grandchildren as fast as they can run from the car to the garden. Hurray! There will be plenty to store.
Still harvesting beans, peas, lettuce (no slugs), kale and chard. Waiting on the artichokes. I start them from seed every year so they are usually one of the last to harvest. Worth the wait.
Note: If you have a gravel driveway keep the weeds down with a propane torch. I saw evidence of a neighbor using vinegar to keep them at bay but a torch is an easier, more efficient, more effective way to go.
Keep gardening. Keep harvesting.
Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.
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