Gardening: Peaceful, never dull

Jade the Dog hunts red-backed voles in the perennial beds. Mayhem. Destruction. Fewer red-backed voles. 

    What a trade-off. 

The vegetable garden is interesting this season. I thought this wonderful weather would be the answer to my ambitions. But “things” are strange. The Romanesque cauliflower did not make a head, just a huge central stalk. I finally accepted the inevitable and composted the whole lot. What a disappointment. 

I had 16 plants and I count on them to fill the freezer along  with broccoli and then a smattering of this and that. I called the Cooperative Extension Office in Soldotna for an answer to this phenomena. The person with the answer was out of the office until next week. So I called the Anchorage office and their person with the answers suffered from a budget cut and won’t be back until the end of the month. Hmm. 

I emailed Burpee where I bought the seed and asked them. They quickly replied that I would have my answer in an hour. That was five business days ago. A friend has tried Romanesque for three or four years and this is the first year she has gotten a head. So it isn’t the warm weather. A conundrum for sure. 

The broccoli took a hit early in the season from the cutworms. Some have recovered and the seedlings that I replaced the completely destroyed ones with are doing ok, only ok. The six that I planted from seed are now four and the white crowned sparrows think they are just delicious along with the peas. Where’s Jade the Dog when I need her? 

The greens are all as happy as can be. Kale, chard and something new for me — French spinach/Fire Red Orach. I was perusing a seed rack and a friend that I went to France with many years ago was also there. We spotted the French spinach, she looked at me and intoned “How could you not?” So I did and am thankful. It certainly is pretty — how French — and is very tender and mild tasting. It adds panache to a salad. I will continue to plant this vegetable and more of it. This time around I only have four plants, not enough. I harvest just the leaves, not the whole plant and, supposedly, it will continue on until frost. We’ll see.

I really did not think through my tomatoes. I tried two new cherries, eliminating our standby SunGold. Mistake. The next goof was only one Brandywine. Wrong. The only thing going for me is the Black Japanese Trefele (from Johnny’s Seed). Good thing we love this tomato, there are a lot of them and they may be the only ones with a substantial harvest. Live and learn. 

Which brings me to a phone call from a friend who did NOT want to chat. She needed info pronto. Her brother is visiting from the Midwest and told her to cut the tops off her tomatoes immediately. She wanted me to confirm this. Well. I needed to see the plants. I needed to smell the air. I needed to let my intuition make a decision. But she lives hither and yon and her brother was hovering. 

So I said “No. Go tell your Midwest brother to go home to his own tomatoes.” I really think it is too early to cut the tops off. Give them a chance. When the weather seems like it is closing in on us and the fruit on the plants need to ripen before the fat lady sings, then go ahead and cut. But not yet. 

The Royal Burgundy bush green beans in the greenhouse are outstanding. There are only three plants but they are cranking out beans. The plants in the garden look excellent, are in bloom and setting some beans. If you haven’t tried these yet, please, put them on your list for next year. They are excellent. 

Back to the perennial beds. Well, they are odd. The campanula glomerata is so tall, so very tall. Never have I see it this tall. So there is a lot of purple out there. And the veronica is huge, but at least it’s going to seed and I can cut it down. It’s kind of a relief. There is too much of it. I knew this going into this growing season and I thought I had a plan but I didn’t follow through (believe me, I had my reasons, not excuses — reasons) and now I’m stuck with another whole season of too much veronica. Goodness.

The columbine are all huge. There is hardly anything in this garden that is a reasonable size, everything is towering and, of course, falling over. There you have it. 

Back to Jade the Dog. She refuses to walk on the stone paths. These are not gravel but the slate that can be harvested from the side of the highway around Hope and Seward. This couldn’t possibly hurt her feet.  I certainly like them, but she obviously does not. 

So she walks on either side of the path, creating her own paths. Destroying anything that was at one time growing there. I have been whining about this for a couple of years and whining never accomplishes anything. 

So I read an article that suggested I start perennials now for next year’s spring planting. I ordered seed, and have started six different perennials. Among them are mother of thyme that really and truly should withstand the onslaught of Jade the Dog. We’ll see. This whole endeavor is a grand experiment that I am looking forward to. 

The rufous hummingbirds are endlessly entertaining. Last year we had a family of four live with us all summer. This year we have a pair and they seem to be busiest in the evenings although they can be sighted throughout the day. We do not have a hummingbird feeder, they just come to the flowers. Everything we have ever read said they want red trumpet shaped flowers. Not so, they will eat anything, any shape, any color. They just go for it. And, to our fascination, they pause quite often and we can get a really good look at them. Lovely. 

Water. Harvest. Deadhead. Enjoy your summer in the garden.

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