Friend saves garden from abandonment


ho would have thought that I would have to spend a chunk of August in Detroit? That’s right, Detroit. Of all places. Detroit. May this never happen to me again. 

    My intention was to leave the greenhouse door open and leave. Just leave, not ask anyone to water. So I was trying out my theory of abandonment on a friend and she was appalled. Living way way out East End Road, she volunteered (nay, insisted) on watering the greenhouse twice while I was gone. Well, of course that grew into watering the flower box, and the African violets in the house. She took it upon herself to save my entire garden from myself by going above and beyond the call of duty. The whole shebang was gorgeous when I got home. Friends … thank you seems so insufficient. 

So while in hot-humid-endless-strip-malls-and-road-construction Detroit, I got to attend a gorgeous wedding and a family reunion and had a wonderful time. Plus I saw two gardens that really made my heart sing. There are people out there who love their gardens and I was so honored that they shared. Even though Michigan winters are legendary, they can grow quite the array of plants. Luckies. 

Once home I hit the ground running. The peas, kale, purple cauliflower, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, red spinach, beans were all begging to be harvested. Done.  

I cut the cabbage, both green and red, today. It seems early but they are in real danger of being devoured by the slugs. Usually it is cool enough when I harvest these crops that I can leave them in buckets on the porch until the weather gets too cold. Not this year, oh no. It’s too warm to leave them outside so they are now in a stuffed refrigerator. Goodness. 

The greenhouse has been a bit of a challenge this season. The tomatoes have not responded to my loving ministrations. There are a ton of Black Japanese Trefele (Johnny’s)  but the two new cherries are a disappointment. They were out of control until this afternoon when I decided I couldn’t stand it another minute, plus I could hardly get to the cucumbers. 

I hacked my way through, taking no prisoners. Two wheelbarrows of foliage and suckers came out of there. Should have been done much sooner in the season. If you are thinking about putting a stop to the growth of your tomato plants so that what you have ripens, now would be the time. Go forth and prune. On the other hand, this could be an endless summer/fall and your plants could produce ripe fruit until October.  Make your decision and stick to it. 

    In spite of the mess the greenhouse was in, we are giving away tomatoes — which makes my heart sing. The green beans (Royal Burgundy) are still producing in there as well as outside. They are usually done in the greenhouse by now, just spent, but not this year, they continue to produce and I am grateful. 

Due to my weird crop failures of broccoli and romanesque cauliflower there won’t be a stuffed freezer this winter. But the overall diversity will be the same. Peas, beans, kale, spinach, chard, some broccoli and purple cauliflower, eventually Brussels sprouts — a nice variety. 

    Because of our ongoing lack of reliable storage space for root crops I planted fewer potatoes. They are having a fabulous year as are the carrots, beets, onions, shallots, leeks, garlic and fennel. Nice indeed. Don’t wait for your potatoes to bloom or the first frost or whatever, just pull them and eat. Keep in mind that it takes just a few minutes to cook new potatoes no matter the method. Go easy. 

The slugs have bloomed with a vengeance like they do every August. They have been in evidence since early May which is unusual, but they are really throwing their weight around now. I have composted the remaining lettuce — a magnet for slugs. Keep this in mind: if slugs seem like a huge problem for you right about now, then harvest. Better you eat the produce than they.  

Another fun chore is deadheading the perennials and annuals. Once the layer of spent blooms has been removed you get to see lovelies that have been buried. Here comes the filipendula Kehome in all its glory, astilbes, the California poppies are still blooming and godetia. The Dropmore honeysuckle vine is blooming and the Hydrangea paniculata is full of buds (it put on quite a show last year). The James McFarland lilac, the dwarf Korean lilacs (all four) are reblooming and so is the Theresa Bugnet rose. Not much mind you but enough to make me smile. 

I will be letting some of these annuals go to seed so they will reseed themselves in the spring. This seems to be working well with our mild winters. I didn’t even start any hemophilia or Lauren’s grape poppy this year because I was counting on them taking care of themselves, which they did. The foxglove, Foxy, has reseeded but you need to keep an eye on these, with an easy winter they can really take over. With a regular winter I’m lucky to get any to over winter. Luck of the draw. This whole scene is my idea of fun, I hope it’s yours, too. 

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