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Growing season marked by abundance

Posted: August 13, 2014 - 4:12pm

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. 

Once again I did a major dead heading. This is the act of removing spent blooms. It is amazing how reluctant I am to do this chore and how grateful I am when its done and the garden looks so fresh. The reluctance comes from not wanting to admit that a plant is finished for the season, bringing us just that much closer to the end. Have you noticed the fireweed? It is finishing up fast and the pushki is prematurely aging, goodness. The whole season started three weeks early and is proving that it won’t last three weeks longer. Oh well, we can’t have it all. 

Once I removed spent delphiniums, verbascum Bold Queen, and thalictrum (all of these still offering a few blooms) the lilies were able to take over along with filipendula Kehome. This is where the annuals put on a strong showing. I am grateful for them. I have too many godetia, California poppy ‘Bridal Bouquet’ and ‘Rosa Romantica’ as if there can ever be too many of anything that is that gorgeous. 

The rose Theresa Bugnet is putting on a second show as is the dwarf Korean lilacs. These will not be as bloomy as the first flush but, nevertheless, bloom they will and appreciate them I do. 

The Dropmore honeysuckle, a climber, is blooming along for the third week and will continue until frost, can’t argue with that. This vine has been on the west wall of the house for 15 years and every year I am convinced it will be its last. It is a zone 4 and shouldn’t be as happy as it is. Go figure. 

The hydrangea paniculata looks like it might bloom this year. There should be enough time for it to make a show. I can hardly wait. There will be a party to honor the bloom. Cross your fingers. I’ve had this shrub 15 years and it has bloomed about four times. I truly believe this will be the fifth. It is a lovely little shrub and the blooms are conically shaped, starting out white and turning pink. It has weak branches and I learned the hard way that it needs support. Before I installed re-bar to hold it together, it split down the middle. Undaunted, it has carried on all these years. The woody stems don’t have quite enough time to harden up and provide support. It can be trained into a small tree, but it is such an iffy plant that I just let it do what it must to survive. 

I did an experiment with Brussels sprouts this spring. I started the seeds in February along with the plants that need more time to produce. My reasoning went something like this: They take between 90 and 100 days to mature so I should get a jump start on them instead of starting them along with the other cole crops. Wrong. They like the later start, they like the really cool weather we usually start out with, they like the cool weather at the end of the season. And they hate everything in between. Now I know. I don’t think I’ll get any Brussels sprouts this year. Which is what the Farmers Market is for — crop failures, among other things. It’s a great place to fill in the blanks. 

I have fallen in love with the edible pod pea “Snowbird.” I also have Oregon Giants but the Snowbird beats it by a mile. It is tender, early, prolific, freezes well. What is there not to love? It is now my go-to edible pod pea. I have given up on the snap peas such as Sugar Ann that I have planted for years and years. Why? They are late, don’t hold well on the vine, meaning I need to be right on them for harvesting or else they turn starchy really fast, and they taste too much like peas. At 58 days to maturity the Snowbird is stuffing the freezer. Thank you. I like success in a vegetable. (Note here that I said ‘vegetable’ not ‘veggie’ take that as an overt hint). 

The strawberries are done and they deserve a rest. I have never had strawberries of such magnificence. There is a bed of Fort Laramie which are classic big, red-all-the-way-through berries. Then the bulk of the plants are the regular Sitkas that everyone has and we are all so grateful for because they make berries without argument. Lots of them. 

The raspberries are coming on. I don’t know what kind I have. They have been given to me and I suspect they are Lathams. Whatever their moniker, they are producing with a voracity seldom seen. Once again, I am grateful. 

On to the greenhouse. What can I say? There is too much of everything. I need to reevaluate how many tomato plants I cram in there. ‘Cram’ should not be an operative word here. These plants, although I insist they are weeds, need room to breath, room for the air to circulate, the sun to reach the innermost tomatoes. Do not crowd them. I have been leaving the vents open 24-7 the last 10 days. This is helping. I tend to over water and that doesn’t help anything. But the plants are bearing delicious fruit and we are definitely in BLT mode. There are Brandywine, Black Japanese Trefele (really, you need to have one of these plants next year) Gold Nugget (that I won’t do again, not enough flavor compared to the Sungold) and the new one this year is Purple Bumble Bee. The verdict is still out on this one, at least its pretty. Only one taste tester raved about it and I am ambivalent, not a good sign. 

The garlic is questionable. They have really thick stalks that will take forever to dry if at all. I am concerned about them. After digging around I determined that the bulbs are huge but I won’t know about their storage capabilities. I planted Inchelium Red, my favorite but it really is behaving differently this year than ever before. We’ll see. 

The onions that I started from seed ‘Purple Marble’ are looking gorgeous. Methinks I will start onions from seed from now on. No more sets. 

The artichokes are moving along as predicted but I am covetous of my neighbors. Hers are planted in pots and need to be harvested ASAP. Lucky people. 

The potatoes are being routinely harvested, check yours to see what is going on down there. They do not need to bloom to make a harvest — there is nothing better than “new” potatoes. 

There are so very many reasons to be grateful for grandchildren not the least of which the rapacity they exhibit devouring peas, broccoli, carrots, anything really that is growing in the garden. There is too much of everything and they take care of the surplus in a heartbeat. Hurray for grands!

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.

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