You noticed. I know you did. I have faith in you. May 17th the leaves unfurled, the air smelled like spring, the ground said “go ahead, plant peas”. Here we go. Really, it seems like a late spring but it isn’t, its somewhat usual if there is a usual, a normal. Whatever we want to call it, spring is here.
Trees. They are somewhat problematic. Their size, the years it takes to reach maturity, placement. They take thought and, to some extent, money. You don’t want to be hasty when the time comes to make a decision to replace, say, the gorgeous old spruce that succumbed to the spruce aphid infestation that struck them a couple of years ago. But there are those of us on the cusp of making just such a decision.
This would be an ideal time for you to pick out a spot on your lawn and turn it into a vegetable patch. Seriously. Now.
We are now deep into the growing season and the vegetable harvest is well underway. All of the Romanesque cauliflower is in the freezer and the broccoli (Packman and Arcadia) continues to throw side shoots. The slugs are shy this season, possibly waiting for serious rain to start, so the lettuce is still in good supply.
Every growing season the garden is a different story. We gardeners never know what is going to thrive or stall. This year I have Magic Fountain delphiniums that have doubled their projected size. Needless to say, they don’t fit where they are planted, much to my chagrin and the lilies that are being crowded. If I had any inkling this was going to happen I would have divided them this spring. But no. So there they loom, a formidable presence in what would otherwise be a serene setting.
I have a new tool and I think I may be in love. It is a torch that I can use standing up to burn the plants growing in the stone pathway. I am finished, done, over, not ever again, weeding between these pieces of slate that we “harvested” along the highway near Hope. John called it “subsistence rocking” at the time. These rocks have broken off the main face and fallen into the ditch. Keep your eyes open if you are interested in creating a stone path. But, more important, get one of these torches first. They are locally available.
Sandhill crane mayhem. There they are, flinging seedlings over their shoulders, digging potatoes and drilling them full of holes with their powerful beaks. All with the insouciance of a teenager. No amount of banging on pots and pans or shouting will divert their focus. Whew.
I stepped out the door this afternoon and the air was thrumming. The sound was somewhat like a chorus toning. It took a few minutes of intense listening to determine that the entire prunus virginiana “Shubert” was covered with honey bees. Covered. They definitely added an aural dimension to my day.
What a stunning day. We three friends did a commercial greenhouse tour and really, why does anyone start plants from seed? The offerings were gorgeous; the selection broad; and at one stop there were cookies.
Strawberries are fraught with enemies. For you to have a bowl of these beauties on your kitchen counter you need to put in some effort. Yes, there will be weeds among the plants; yes, slugs will damage the crop; yes, birds will tear them to bits ; yes, moose will pull up the whole plant and eat it; yes, you need to do something to help them. They are so worth it. Our strawberries may not be the huge red-all-the-way-through product you get at the grocery store. Be thankful. Ours are delicious. Smaller, paler and sublime.
I think about you.
Editor’s Note: This is the Kachemak Gardener’s last column of the season.
If fate led me to become an apple vendor I would make a slim living indeed. The “grands” have been ever so game eating these barely ripe apples, apparently anything with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on it immediately becomes palatable.
Those of you who grow apples have scoffed at my columnar apple tree. It has been said that it isn’t a “real” apple tree. But, in my defense, it has served a purpose: I have been able to say, yes, I have an apple tree.
The fact is that I don’t want an apple tree. The only thing I like about them are the blooms. I don’t like their growth habit, therefore, I don’t like to look at them.
A magnolia in bloom right here at latitude 59 degrees 39 minutes north. Now that’s something to write home about. Well-known Homer gardener Shirley Forquer can do just that. She acquired her plant 12 or 15 years ago in Port Townsend, Wash., gave it a home and then forgot about it, more or less. Three weeks ago she noticed something white on the ground near the base of the plant and, lo, a bloom.
I went to a friends garden this week because she is frustrated with what she has going on. I truly think being overwhelmed by your garden is one of the main reasons people give up.
But this friend is ready to dig in (literally) and get things under control. She has very specific needs from her perennial bed and really all I had to do was listen. Sometimes saying things out loud is all it takes. Once she heard herself telling me what she really wanted it all started falling into place.
Where to start? The last two weeks have been so full, so interesting, so busy. And all of this in the garden. I can’t imagine life without it. So this column will be a bit disjointed, stick with it and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting and, hopefully, useful.
Warm temperatures and just enough rain. What gardener could ask for more? The garden has resoundingly responded. Lush. Productive. Gorgeous. In the 44 years I’ve lived in Alaska I’ve never had a garden like this. I will hold the memory of this growing season close to my heart because who knows what surprise we’ll get next year.
Just when I think the entire world is going to hell I make an excellent discovery: a neighbor with a vegetable garden that is exactly four feet square. Think about that for a moment, go ahead, take two.
Here is a semi-retired couple who have never gardened and buy the book on square foot gardening and actually do it. They are growing exactly what they want to eat. All will be consumed fresh. They have given this thought and are having excellent results.
We all think about how we can make the most of our time. So there I was, considering the seed pods rapidly developing on the multitudes of columbine (which are having an excellent season), knowing in my heart of hearts that I really really needed to go out there and deadhead. Want more blooms? Deadhead. But, I find deadheading columbine a tedious chore. Much as I love to garden, this is one task I would like to skip. So I asked myself: Deadhead columbine or eat a slice of buttered toast accompanied by a cup of tea while standing over the kitchen sink? Decisions, decisions.
I talk too much. Three times this past week I have invited interested gardeners over to look at this creation. Now, I said “interested” and they are but when I start going into way too much detail and their eyes glaze over I should take the hint. Live and learn. Plus, I don’t have time to go into all this detail. There is work to be done.