Kachemak Gardener: Garden journal helps map out next season

This latest rainfall has been a boon. Once again the weeds are easily removed instead of chiseling them out from rock hard soil. And there are weeds out there. They have been lurking under the lush foliage of your perennials and annuals, just waiting for the moment that they can distribute their seeds. Don’t wait any longer — get out there and weed.

But as the weeding continues I think I have ceased to deadhead the annuals. With the dramatic uptick in climate change perhaps the annuals want to keep going, perhaps they really are not ready to call it a season. Perhaps I’m rushing things. So many variables. I’m hedging my bets and leaving some annuals to go to seed and most are deadheaded. That way there might be enough volunteers come spring to fill in the gaps. Or maybe not. Not much has changed there as far as the wonderful mystery of gardening is concerned. One never knows what the next growing season will bring.

I have been consulting my gardening journal. It is interesting that as the years roll along there are fewer and fewer entries. But I found what I was looking for: the name of the columnar apple tree that was planted in the strawberry bed 10 years ago. I didn’t (and still don’t) want a bona fide apple tree. I don’t like their shape, but I certainly do like the blossoms and consider apples a bonus. This one is North Pole and is loving the extra heat this summer that has most of us worried. The apples are supposed to be a bright red, crisp, eat-out-of-hand type, similar to a MacIntosh (whatever that is). Of the zillions of kinds of apples out there, I choose one for the blooms and am indifferent to the actual apple. Until this year. I want those apples to ripen and it looks like they are running out of time. So close. I’m not interested in the Parkland and Norland that do so well here. They are perfect for apple sauce and juice. Not for me. I want an apple that snaps when bitten into. An apple that sings. My fingers are crossed.

Back to the journal. This is the very best time of year to map out your vegetable plot for next growing season. Most of our gardens are small and the rotation principle is difficult to implement. I do my best to alternate the vegetables but sometimes it just doesn’t work. I certainly don’t have enough room for a 3-year rotation. So I just carry on. Floating row cover has been a most excellent tool; it can thwart the fly that lays the egg that becomes the root maggot that destroys your entire cole crop. My but this can be daunting. Between floating row cover and luck I have managed to avoid this calamity. Still, get your map at the ready so when planting time rolls around again you will be ready, not trying to recall what went where last year.

Have you been noticing the lovely hanging baskets and window boxes and planters all over this little town? For whatever reason they are looking spectacular right this very moment. And they are putting me to shame. I have sworn off containers. They take too much water, too much tending. But I would love to have a couple of them looking gorgeous right about now. I’ll make a note of this in my journal and hope to maybe read it to remind myself of potential glory for next season.

I bought two packages of crocus this week. The intention is to plant them on the north side of the house where the bleeding hearts thrive. It would be ever so nice to have early color to greet us. But I am already doubting that two packages will be enough. There are enough squill in the perennial beds to take a handful from here and there and put them out there too. Plenty of Jack Snipe narcissus, muscarii, fritillaria. There is quite the list but, really, I want crocus. I’m waiting for the first week in October to plant them. But there is another reason why I should just stick with the two packages: rodents. They seek shelter under the boardwalk during the winter and I’m thinking they just might eat the bulbs. An expensive snack. I am prepared to live and learn.

I’ve spent the last two afternoons removing supports from perennials, and I’m not done yet. The delphiniums have been afflicted with powdery mildew (a fungal disease) for the last few years. This strikes when the weather is warm and humid. My usual procedure with these plants is to bend their stalks down over their crown to protect them from the freeze/thaw cycle. The whole stalk also protects what ever else is around it such as foxgloves and pinks. But this year I intend on removing the affected stalks and either burning them (weather permitting) or taking them to the dump. Why, really, am I leaving infected plant material in situ? Enough of that — everything is being removed and we’ll see what happens next year.

You might be thinking about bringing in some herbs for the winter (which seems quite far off). Pot them up but be cautious. We had such an intense aphid year that there are bound to be some on your herbs or whatever else you think you need in the house. Rinse them thoroughly and watch them like a hawk. Introduce them to your interior space slowly. This is a reverse harden off. Instead of letting them meet their fate of a cold wet Alaska spring, they are taking their chances with central heating.

Keep gardening.

NOTE: I try not to promote any one business in this column BUT Wagon Wheel Steve overbought this spring in an attempt to bring us plant material in perfect condition. He certainly accomplished that but is left with too much of a good thing. Trees, shrubs, perennials are on sale and you really should take advantage of this, it won’t happen again as he hones his buying skills. This continued warm weather and just enough rain makes for ideal planting conditions.

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

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