It’s July: Garden working as it should

I regret the size of our deck, too small. The idea behind this house and garden was for the two of us to age into it. Both are compact. Little did I know just how many people would gather here. Friends and family, lots of both. What a joy. 

At the moment our daughter and her two daughters are here for two weeks. We could use more deck on the east side, where we have tea/coffee in the morning, catching the sun on the lilacs, watching the birds at the feeder and the bird bath, listening to the neighborhood rally for a new day.

When it’s just the two of us (and the constant presence of Jade the Dog) all is well, but add any more to this equation and there really isn’t enough room to move around.
Why did I scale down the deck? 

Because after 20 years at elevation 1,466 feet, with snow on an expansive deck for eight months of the year, I was really very weary of shoveling. I can quickly think of at least 10 things I would rather do. In the summer that same deck was a continuous mosquito convention. Then there was the summer of the squirrel population explosion similar to the rabbit influx we recently experienced. There were squirrels all over that deck, the walls of the house, the roof. Oh my goodness.

And there were containers holding all kinds of annuals that required watering and deadheading on a daily basis.
Once we started drawing plans for the current house the first thing to go was the big deck. I have never been all that fond of container gardening. I know the benefits, and I even encourage you to use them if you have nowhere else to garden, then they make sense. 

Plus I am annoyed by the scale of containers to house. There never seems to be enough of them, nor are they large enough. Unless the space is an entry and there is a sense of boundaries, the best bet is to do without. 

The same goes for hanging baskets. I have noticed that Nomar and Print Works have baskets that are big enough, full enough and there are enough of them to make an impact against the size of the building. If you haven’t noticed them go take a look, they are lovely. I prefer to enjoy theirs than tend my own. 

This deck has a container of herbs, referred to as my herb garden. It is handy to the kitchen and the grill. There are a couple of begonias out there because I couldn’t think of what else to do with them. 

Let’s not forget the window box. Now this I can get behind. I think a window box says “Welcome” like nothing else can. I really love that window box. It has the same thing planted in it every year: tuber begonias (pink to go with the bleeding hearts that tumble below it), pansies, lobelia. Predictable, reliable, easy, welcoming.  It’s the first thing you see when you drive/walk up to the house. It makes my heart sing. 

I’ve done something interesting in the vegetable garden this season, something I should have done years ago: I have two different varieties of the same plant i.e. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas and spinach. Now the first round of Tyee spinach is in the freezer and today I took in Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds. What a winner. Large, heavy, crisp in a salad, easy to pull the rib out. I love that spinach. 

Plus, I got three times more than the Tyee in the same amount of space. This may be the end of Tyee forever. Next year I’ll replace it with something else, keeping the Bloomsdale. 

As far as greens go, the garden is cranking them out like crazy. Chard, kale, beet greens, lettuce are all lovely. The sorrel died with the ice of two years ago and I’m waiting for my friend to replace it. If you don’t have sorrel get some. The “grands” eat it with a vengeance. They head straight for it like they need it, so there must be something to it besides the wonderful flavor. It’s perennial so pick your spot and leave it there. 

I am often asked how much time I spend on the garden. I have finally given this some thought and John has verified it — about two to three hours a day. That really is a chunk of the day when you think about it. A friend was over two weeks ago and I was out there doing what I do and she chirped “Getting ready for the 4th” and I thought “The 4th?” Yes, we have a party on the 4th but it seemed so far away at the time. The garden takes daily attention. Tending and harvesting. 

We have one container of broccoli left in the freezer from last season. We have not bought any vegetables all year, everything has come from our own garden. That takes a certain level of commitment. Which is not for everyone.

Another change we made, and just this year, is the compost pile. I used to have two different types out there and this year I decided I was finished with turning compost every two or three days. Granted, I made gorgeous compost that was ready to go in about 10 days, but I asked myself “Why?” and couldn’t come up with an answer. 

We make a mountain of compost that is ready to go on a three-year rotation. The greenhouse bins are filled with fresh compost every fall. Compost is spread on the vegetable beds in the fall. The perennials get a good dose in the spring. I have compost. So what’s the hurry? No hurry. I’m done turning the compost pile, period. But it certainly does grow plants. Feed the soil so the soil will grow the plant. Not much to it. 

There is so much waste after harvesting the edible part of a vegetable why wouldn’t you compost? What else are you going to do with it?

The strawberries are coming on. I have never seen so many blooms (now tiny berries with a few ripe ones). This will be a banner year for berries. This is the second time I have actually put straw under the strawberry plants. This supposedly keeps the berries clean. Well, this year the stems are so upright that I doubt any berries will touch the ground, wouldn’t you know. 

The garden is working as it should, in spite of the too small deck. It is an extension of the house, an extra room. The “grands” (all five of them) are running in and out. There are places for hide and seek, for fairy boxes, for grandmama time, for quiet time.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.