Kachemak Gardener: Now’s the time for strategic garden planning

There are so many things to talk about. This is the time in the growing season when the garden is exploding and to keep up takes a bit of strategic planning.

Take the weeds. If someone were to hand me a manifesto that nary a weed should be found in the garden I would laugh. Just going from the kitchen to the vegetable plot for dinner takes longer every evening. I gather a double handful of weeds on the way to the lettuce.

But, really, does it matter? The garden is my pride and joy and I love to share it, which happens more often than not. The weeds are tucked in with the masses of everything else and none of my friends are into garden shaming. So let there be champagne/tea and rhubarb pie and a truly excellent visit with a handful of good friends on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

Our daughter, Andrea, and her two daughters Genevieve and Marguerite are here for 10 days and that is all the excuse I needed to gather up friends who haven’t seen them for a bit. The three grands that live here are added to the mix and this little house and garden rings with children’s laughter. Just what a garden is for — to be lived in.

Andrea has a lovely garden of her own and offered me her opinion on my perennial beds.

Too crowded, she said.

Hmm, I said.

Maybe next year … .

Deadheading (cutting out spent blooms) is helping the overflowing feeling. I especially enjoy this task in the early morning. Just me and the cranes. The garden looks fresh and ready for anything. I drag my feet every year when it comes time to remove the spent blooms on the veronica. Believe me, you need to do this or else you will have this lovely plant absolutely everywhere and we all know about too much of a good thing. Once it’s gone I can see the blue “Chips” campanula that had been hidden beneath it. And the lovely little yellow columbine. And the astrantia seedlings that should hold their own next year.

When we first installed this garden the blank slate was daunting so I spread johnny-jump-up seed all over the perennial beds. Oops. But, over the years, I haven’t eliminated them. They are fun, a minor delight on a grey day. And be sure to put the blooms in your ice cube trays. From a visual stand point they make a glass of lemonade sing. I don’t deadhead these, (too much work) but I will pull out the entire plant when they threaten to overtake the Apple Blossom snapdragons. I let them line the edges of the beds, more or less.

Jade the Dog turned 9 yesterday and this is the first year she hasn’t hauled her 75 pounds up and down the edge of the slate path creating a barren trail that has driven me crazy. I’ve tried planting this and that to withstand the wear and tear and have found thyme to be the most effective. She even nestles into it for an advantageous view of the neighbors. But, this year, without her activity, all kinds of things have grown into that stretch and it really is lovely. Whew, finally.

I have struggled with a lack of something tallish and lovely down the center of the middle bed. I started Magic Fountain black knight delphinium from seed last year and this year the blooms are just excellent. The hope is that they will stay 3 feet tall. No need to stake and the color is stunning.

The vegetable garden is producing an abundance that I’m finding challenging to keep up with. The broccoli is glorious; romanesque cauliflower is closing. This all requires me to get it in the freezer pronto. I can grow enough vegetables to see the two of us through May. Not bad.

All of this with a late start and a seemingly cold spring. Which, statistically, is wasn’t but the last few years of early, warm springs lulled me into complacency. Once I reluctantly accepted the weather I should have offered the onions extra protection, but no; I waited for the weather to warm up. No. Hence I won’t have much of an onion/leek crop this year and leeks go so well with salmon.

Once again I am in awe of fennel. My goodness that vegetable loves it here. Now there is a cash crop if ever I saw one. If you haven’t tried growing this yet put it on your list for next year.

Last year we pulled out an entire bed of strawberries, effectively reducing our crop by half. Well, that sure seemed like a good idea at the time. Let me tell you — five grands can pick and consume strawberries to their hearts content. Good for them. That’s what they are there for, and strawberry shortcake, which the beds should recover enough in two days to provide for that quintessential summer treat.

The next garden party will feature the lilies that are just starting to grace the beds. Take a look at your garden and you will no doubt find something of your own to celebrate too, weeds and all.

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