Kachemak Gardener: Keep the garden parties going

September got here in a hurry. There is much to do, and I made a stab at some of it this past week.

The perennial beds have my attention. The panic purchases I made this spring are interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing if they make it through whatever this winter has to offer. The three dwarf Joe Pye Weed that I put in front of the delphiniums are completely overwhelmed by the filipendula Kehome. So not only did I burn up the credit card in my panic and haste, I also made some unfortunate decisions. So be it. If Joe Pye makes it come spring, it will be moved to a more appropriate location, but do I even want it? There, I have lots to answer for, and there is more out there than just Joe.

What I do have, in spades, is johnny-jump-ups; you know this. This afternoon, I focused on one bed and removed about a million of these trusty, fun, old fashioned, make-you-smile, little violas. At first I concentrated on removing them from the middle of each perennial where they had embedded themselves, perhaps to the detriment of the main plant. But as I got comfortable pulling them out (it seems so brutal), I realized that how much fresher the bed looked. I started removing them by the handful, bushels, millions. If I let them all go to seed, the beds will be overwhelmed and too much of a good thing is never a good thing. They aren’t all gone; enough are unreachable to seed freely and there will be more next year, and the year after and the year after … Where would the grands be without a little johnny-jump-up in their ice cubes?

Now that particular bed looks like a hyper-groomed woman on her way to a business meeting rather than one of us on our way to the Fishing Hole.

I’m slowing down on the deadheading of the annuals. It really is rather late in the season, and I do want some of them to reseed, so I’m just doing enough to keep the plants looking neat. I have lost interest in the columbine — cut them down to the ground, for deadheading got tedious.

So there is the vegetable garden thriving. There are the tried and true vegetables out there and, sure enough, they have loved this cool (understatement) growing season. The main heads of the broccoli, Arcadia, have been harvested, and we’re working on the side shoots. The cauliflower is all in the freezer. The Brussels sprouts are enormous. The top of each stalk has been pinched back, effectively slowing the growth of the stalk so what sprouts there are will continue to mature all the way up.

This was the year that I wanted to experiment with starting carrots (Bolero) later. Well, we didn’t have much choice and they are looking excellent. The grands have started pulling them, and they are, so far, a perfect size. No more monster carrots, although they get to stay in the ground until cold enough to harvest, so who knows what they will ultimately achieve? Either way, they are delicious and are perfect eaten fresh or stored for winter consumption.

The Table Princess winter squash will never, ever make a squash, but I keep hoping. There is simply not enough time to mature what it has out there. I had considered cutting the lead vine, but that’s the only place that has little squash. A complete failure.

The artichoke, Green Globe, is making an admirable surge, but it’s doubtful if it will produce. The beans, although wildly successful in the greenhouse, are very unhappy in the garden. I usually have beans in three stages: the greenhouse, starts under row cover and direct seeded, also under row cover. But only the greenhouse beans are producing. The others are not yet in bloom. One of those years.

The ongoing conundrum of the Sugar Ann peas has been solved by Debi Poore. She and her husband, Charlie Gibson, have built a pea tunnel that has been most successful. The peas hang down and all one needs do is walk under it and make a harvest. I’ll add that Debi, being an artist through and through, has planted three different kinds of peas “for the blooms.” The tunnel makes for a lovely show as well as an effortless harvest. I’m making plans to accommodate something similar.

As you harvest, be sure to remove the spent plant. For example, the cauliflower won’t make any more heads; therefore, the plant is done. Don’t leave it in the ground where the it will continue to use nutrients from your soil and will, undoubtedly, be a slug attractant. Keep your garden clean of all refuse. Put it in your compost pile that I’m sure each and every one of you have going at this very minute. We use a machete to chop up everything as small as we have patience for. The smaller the material, the quicker it will decompose. This IS latitude 59.5 degrees, and nothing comes easy.

This is the perfect time to seed grass. Really, the rains are here so you don’t need to water. The brown spots that have not recovered from the winter die off have been raked, aerated and seeded. Now we can just wait and see new grass make an appearance before it snows or freezes or whatever.

The raspberries are excellent this year. John is picking every other day, along with the black currants. Oh, and the blueberries are everywhere. No need to go across Kachemak Bay for picking, just look around and you will be rewarded. It’s a banner year for blueberries.

Keep the garden parties going. We have a rainy week ahead of us but that’s what a raincoat/umbrella is for. Too soon we’ll be house bound.

Keep gardening.

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