Kachemak Gardener: Working through the denial punch list

I am ignoring the inevitable.

I don’t want to disconnect the hose from the house.

I do want John to mow with the blade down instead of up a notch like he did yesterday.

I don’t want to pull out the annuals that either have gone to seed or are going to and look tatty.

I definitely do not want the cranes to leave.

How does your denial list look? Something like mine?

But here is what I have done: dug the potatoes. This may seem early to you, but the vines were lying on the ground and the slugs were having a feast and I decided that enough is enough and dug potatoes.

Pulled carrots: This project was unexpected and happened today because 7-year-old Flora was here and really and truly needed a job, so the carrots are now all tucked away in the refrigerator (and there isn’t room for anything else, alas).

Pulled garlic and shallots: These are all drying in the basement and look excellent. I thought they were a lost cause earlier in the season but this gentle late August early September is a boon.

The broccoli, romanesque cauliflower, peas, chard, spinach, are all in the freezer. Red cabbage and Brussels sprouts are still hanging out there and I’m gleaning broccoli. I’m holding my breath for the onions. But the leeks are getting harvested each time we have a salmon dinner.

Cecilia, our 13-year-old granddaughter, took over a bed in this garden. She planted what she likes to eat (smart girl): carrots, cabbage, celery, radish and turnips. The turnips are the only plants left in her garden. She is waiting for the shoulders to turn purple. I have never ever grown a turnip so I’m following her lead and wait we will. My end of the deal, besides offering the space, was to water. She handled the rest of it and has been quite successful. She gets to eat what she likes and grew herself.

I want to go back to the potatoes. If you are a regular reader of this column you will know that I have zero storage for root crops. So this spring I bought four (yes, four) seed potatoes, halved them, dug a trench about 10-inches deep, planted the somewhat dried pieces, waited forever for foliage to appear, then hilled them every time a little something showed. We harvested about 45 pounds of huge, beautiful Yukon Golds.

So, here’s the difference: In the past I’ve cut up the seed, allowed it to dry for a few days, and planted nine pieces in a 3-foot square (there are four of these) with zero hilling. This year the same area got two pieces. There is math involved here so I’ll let it go at that. What you need to take from this is that you should be planting potatoes deep and hilling (pulling soil up and over the new foliage until just a few leaves remain showing; keep this up until you run out of soil to mound. It’s really very simple.)

Once you have raised your own garlic you won’t go back to the commercially grown crop. There are two ways to accomplish this. Fall sown cloves will yield a larger head, and a spring crop will be lovely but a tad smaller. I have been known to do both in the same growing season. Why? Because I don’t trust fall sown garlic. Here at elevation 396 feet the freeze/thaw cycle is relentless. Yes, I mulch, using Christmas trees that I scavenge from neighbors. Nothing more than that. I’ve tried piling heaps of this and that only to find that it slows their progress in the spring. Garlic is up with the crocus and, usually, ready to harvest by mid-July. Not so this year but then nothing was particularly anxious to get on with the growing season. Cold, wet, windy I really couldn’t blame any of the perennials or bulbs for staying under ground for as long as possible. Why face the wrath of Mother Nature when subterranean life is so cozy? But the garlic persevered and made a fine showing, late, but fine nevertheless.

As for spring planting you will plant the cloves in a flat of potting medium about six weeks before the weather settles. It is amazing how fast garlic shows itself. This will be happening in the greenhouse or a window sill. When it’s time to go outside, just tip the whole lot over, tease the roots apart and plant. Really, that’s all there is to it.

You will not, for one second, regret growing your own garlic. It is gorgeous, delicious, juicy and snappy. You don’t need to get fancy with what kind to plant although there are hundreds of different types. You can even use a head or two from the grocery store (California’s Silver Queen is the one you buy over and over at Safeway). There you have it. Contain your enthusiasm until mid-October. Just get the individual cloves in the ground before it freezes solid.

Have you noticed that the James McFarland lilacs are deep into their second bloom for the season? These lovelies pull this off almost every fall. This is the pink lilac and they get huge so give them some thought before you plant one. Mine is very crowded and both of us regret its placement. Be that as it may, the new blooms are most welcome.

The Theresa Bugnet rose is also into its second bloom. This rose is a bit tricky. It took four years for it to stabilize, now its running rampant as roses are wont to do. The bloom is heartbreakingly beautiful. A soft double pink with a glorious scent. It has an arching habit, and lovely dark burgundy stems that add winter interest so be sure to plant one where you can see it year round.

We still have weeks to go in this growing season; keep mowing (short) and gardening.

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