Kachemak Gardener: Keep gardening; the end is near but not yet here

I kissed a rose.

There are three blooms left on the Theresa Bugnet and the season is fast passing. I truly love that rose and I am going to deeply miss the lovely medium pink, double, fragrant blooms. So kiss it I did.

The neighbor across the way is in a brand new house and is also new to gardening. She started sunflowers from seed, something I have never, ever grown. They are planted against the grey wall of the house and in freestanding planters. They are stunning. If you don’t smile when you see a sunflower you need to rethink your reason to be.

I truly hope you are still appreciating the hanging baskets and planters that business owners on Pioneer Avenue have so carefully nurtured this summer. Each and every one of them is glorious.

The weather forecast is for rain, which is happening this evening as I write this along with wind. I’m hoping for more rain to soften the ground so weeding will be somewhat easier. There are still enough weeds out there to keep me interested. This garden harbors three kinds of chickweed. Doesn’t that beat all? Can’t have just one, no, gotta have three. Plus, it is amazing how sneaky fireweed is. You would think that such a giant plant would be obvious but here they come looming over all and this is the first time I have noticed them. I keep a few going purposely, in the corner of the West Garden where I want them to stay. I like to have native plants inside this fortress of a fence. There are the iris setosa and marsh marigolds that give the nod to the natural environment along with the fireweed. Don’t forget the slate paths that we “subsistence rocked” from the side of the road near Hope.

Let’s address the reality of harvesting. I confess I would make an abysmal homesteader. I can make the whole scene work until harvest. That’s when I would like to be somewhere else, anywhere. There are those of you out there making all kinds of pickles/jams/jellies/juices/sauces whatever. I, on the other hand, am hard pressed to pick anything let alone process it. The harvest signals the end and I don’t ever want the growing season to end. The finality of it. The inevitability of a very long winter looming on the horizon. We are fortunate to have the Homer Public Library and The Homer Bookstore. They have good web sites for no-contact pick up — very convenient.

Back to the harvest. John and I continually search for ways to improvise a root cellar. Last year’s set up almost worked but not good enough. We needed ventilation in the cooler. This year we will use a tote (black so light stays out), drill holes, layer the carrots and beets with sawdust and see how that works. The purple cabbage, which are huge, will ride it out in something similar sans the sawdust.

I managed to get the garlic and leeks harvested before the rain. They are laid out on the basement floor on newspaper doing a nice job of drying out. The onions are not ready to come in. Both the Patterson and Red Wing are still going strong. I need the tops to at least show signs of weariness before I pull them.

The slugs have found the Skyphos lettuce that I swear by. I am now cutting out the hearts and tossing the rest of the plant into the compost, leaving the root in situ awaiting the possibility of more growth. One never knows what kind of fall we will have — it could very well be mild enough to support that second growth. If not, I have four seedlings in the greenhouse that will be planted after the tomatoes come out.

Speaking of tomatoes — they have been magnificent this year. Only four plants and we have been inundated. The Black Japanese Trefele is, hands down, my favorite.

The four bush green beans, Royal Burgundy, are still producing. I have good luck with these in the greenhouse. They struggle a bit when left outside even with row cover. They will produce, but not like in the greenhouse. The cucumbers are still setting and we are still harvesting; can’t argue with that.

Keep an eye on your vegetable plot. When you have harvested a cauliflower, another one will not appear. The plant will continue to exist, depleting the soil of nutrients and not producing anything useful to you. Pull it. The broccoli will continue producing side shoots and you don’t want to miss any of those, don’t let them bloom, unless you want them too for whatever reason, known only to you.

Our chard has turned tough and bitter and has bolted, it is headed to the compost. It has served us well this season.

Keep gardening: the end may be near but it isn’t here.

NOTE: I have a new “tool” that I want to share with you: coveralls with pockets for kneepads. This garment has proven remarkable. I have eliminated the bothersome kneeling pad that I’m forever looking for. I shed the coveralls when I come in the house, effectively leaving the outside where it belongs.

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