Kachemak Gardener: Of hellebores and honeysuckle and onions

The Kachemak Gardener has been graced by a startling degree of gardening tolerance

Hello. It seems early, but since I’m thinking about the garden I thought that just maybe you would be too. So here we are.

I have no way of knowing if this column is still relevant. There are so very many choices out there for gardening classes —conferences, videos, radio programs, you name it — and many are locally produced. I’ve dipped into a couple of them. What can I say? I like to write this column and my editor likes to run it so let’s get on with it.

My seventh decade has graced me with a startling degree of gardening tolerance. Take the garlic as a prime example: it was completely overwhelmed with ice, thick ice. John heroically chipped out most of it. The weather changed, melting the rest. We then threw the Christmas tree boughs over the bed. Ice like that will suffocate whatever sleeps beneath. Did I fret over this like I would have in years past? No. The thought process turned to: spring plant garlic, it works, the heads will be a tad smaller but just as lovely. No problem.

Then there is the threat of the west wind bearing down on the Dropmore honeysuckle trained to a trellis on the west wall. It takes a terrific beating and, because that’s where our bedroom is, I listen to it suffer. The west wind still dominates, but not as urgently; we seem to experience an east/north/east wind with some frequency. This turn of meteorological events is taking pressure off the honeysuckle — sweet thing, it deserves a break.

So there are the hellebores, brave lovelies, their evergreen foliage held aloft the snow and ice. Will they make it through another Homer winter? Well, they will or they won’t and that’s that.

I’ve backed off on mulching. Tossing Christmas tree boughs here and there has been my modus operandi for many years. But what about all those minor bulbs that get with the program so very early? They are inhibited by spruce boughs. They want to shine. They want to grace a gray day with delight. And what have I done? Covered them because they are intermingled with the foxgloves that I so very much want to protect so they can put on a glorious show come summer. Nope. Foxgloves are on their own. I know for sure those bulbs will come back and the foxgloves are a gamble.

The seed catalogs have been arriving in force. I want you to really think about this: Do you need to order seeds? There are seed racks galore here in our little city; make use of them. Actually, buy your starts from our excellent local nurseries. That will eliminate the need for lights to augment our too short days. Your life will be easier and your garden lovelier if you follow that advice. Read the catalogs. There is a plethora of information in them and some of them are actually entertaining.

Let’s talk about food storage. Actually, I’m the last person on earth who should address this. We don’t have a root cellar or a reasonable facsimile. What we do have is a tote with holes drilled all around it. I’ve procured wood chips, laid them on the bottom of the tote, sprinkled water over and then laid in the carrots. Many layers later, there is a very full, heavy tote. We have been letting it reside on the covered porch, along with a tote of red cabbage. When the temperature drops below freezing we drag them into the downstairs entry. This has been working for us this year because the weather has been so mild. It also takes the two of us to remember the carrots. Not a perfect solution but we certainly do have lovely, delicious carrots at the ready. Next year I’ll add beets — I can see this spiraling out of control.

The onions, Patterson and Red Wing, are doing just fine in the basement, which is 64 degrees like the rest of the house. Nowhere is there a cool corner to be found. The garlic and shallots are happy as can be on a shelf in the kitchen, nice and handy. So the only real problem are the carrots, cabbage, beets and potatoes. That’s quite a problem.

I’m going to attempt the Homer Farmers Market this summer. Attempt, you say? That’s right, attempt. I think I might be a Wednesday afternoon type of shopper — fewer tourists, less crowded. I need to give myself a chance to think about what my choices are, to question the growers, to NOT talk to the throngs and come away with an empty basket. Wish me luck. What I’m after is trying new foods, seeing if we like them and giving them a go in my own garden. I NEED SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Note: Kyra Wagner’s Sustainable Homer newsletter provides information on gardening classes, farmers markets and other information. Sign up at http://eepurl.com/t2xJ1.

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