Kachemak Gardener: On wasps and rain

I’m writing this Sunday night, its been raining all day. We actually got the wood stove going this afternoon to ease the damp chill. Excellent.

Nonetheless, it almost always rains when the peonies are in full bloom. There they lay, all of their glory drenched, stems broken. That was the result of the downpour we experienced for about an hour a few days ago. Fortunately the grands came over and I sent them home with a five gallon bucket of almost perfect peonies. The report is that they are now dispersed throughout their house. We’ll see what survives this day of rain. They are staked in regular (and expensive) peony grids but these plants are four and a half feet tall and they overwhelm these supports. I need to think of something.

That said, we need this rain. Although I have been watering, there is nothing like the real thing — wild water. The forecast is for sunny days and I know that the whole garden will sing with appreciation.

I have been deadheading (removing spent blooms) the columbine. Now this is, without a doubt, the very most tedious chore. I will be rewarded with more blooms, albeit smaller. But, at some point I will throw up my hands and cut them down. Enough is enough. Plus they are covered with aphids, as is almost everything else. Hot dry conditions are perfect for aphids and here they are, in force.

The veronica is completely cut down. I miss their blue but they have the habit of seeding and blooming simultaneously. This can present a problem. Although I don’t want to lose the color I also don’t want them to seed all over the place as is their wont. Down they go. Hopefully, the cranberry cosmos and foxgloves that have been buried beneath them will now have a chance to shine. This rain is just what is needed to speed that process along.

This was the spring that I was going to remove the veronica and replace them with salvia. The salvia has a stronger stem and won’t split down the middle, plus the ones I have are a deep purple and I need that intense color instead of the medium blue of the veronica. But I didn’t do it. So, I’m thinking of taking a chance and moving these plants around this week. Dig up the veronica and move the salvia from the lower garden where they are becoming dominated by everything else. I have never done anything like this in the middle of the race, but, this being an all around odd year, why not. Plus there are no garden parties so I’m not all that concerned about how the garden looks. This is a good year to experiment. I’ll let you know.

I took my own advice and pruned the Donald Wyman that has taken control of my clothesline. I got out the lopers and hacked away. I sobbed. I can’t imagine what this is going to look like next year. Right now it looks horrid. I went to John for consolation, or so I thought. He took one look and said “… a little heavy handed, I’d say, a little too aggressive.” More sobbing. But then he isn’t the one hanging out the laundry.

We have more wood wasps this year than ever. You may have noticed them too. Huge, beautiful with what looks like a giant stinger but it is actually a ovipositor to lay eggs in trees. Once again I thank Janice Chumley, retired Integrated Pest Management technician, for making the ID and explaining how the insect works. I used to see them when we lived at Mile 15 East End Road, but its been a while and they are here in droves this summer. Fear them not for they are harmless although they certainly don’t look it.

Janice also shared the knowledge that yes, our hornets are big and numerous this year perhaps because they had “good overwintering.” At least they are our very own native hornets and not murder hornets. How comforting.

Once again I am baffled by people who question me about their compost. Good grief. Here’s the latest: it just sits there. Well, try watering it and giving a good turn over, keep it covered so it holds the heat and weeds won’t blow into it. Good luck.

The strawberries are coming on strong. They are the Sitka strawberries that are pink, not red like those from California or wherever. But they are sweet, delicious, a gift and produce tons. They are eaten fresh and put in the freezer for those dark days ahead. There are all kinds of strawberry plants out there and I used to experiment with different varieties but the Sitka works. The current challenge is to keep the birds from getting to them before we do.

Now is the time to harvest your delphiniums for drying. They make a stunning dried flower hold their color, and stand tall. Just tie the stalks together and hang them upside down away from direct sunlight. They might have aphids on them so give them a good shake before you bring them in and keep them away from your houseplants until they are nice and dry. This goes for peonies too. If yours are a vivid hue don’t hesitate to dry them. The white or light pink ones are not all that interesting once dried.

On to the vegetable garden. The broccoli that survived the birds/rodents is finding its way to the dinner table and the freezer. The first to be harvested is the Packman which took the hardest hit so there are only a few left. Then comes the Arcadia which has a huge central head. The beauty of both these varieties is that once the main head is cut side shoots will be produced. Don’t miss your chance to harvest when they are at their peak.

The chard has bolted. I’ve added the stalks to the compost and am hoping for a second growth. The tomatoes and cucumbers are coming on strong and the second planting of basil is lovely. The bush green beans are so prolific they require picking every other day. Can’t argue with that. Keep your eye on your vegetables and pick when they are prime, which is the point of having a garden.

Once again I need to talk to you about fertilizing your tomato plant blossoms. Keep your electric toothbrush where it belongs, which is not anywhere near your tomatoes. People, just shake the plant.

NOTE: Keep your eyes open for hummingbirds, they are here. The thought has been they they are attracted to bright colors, i.e. red. There are zero bright colors here, they come to the very white mock orange that are in full bloom. They work over the deep purple delphiniums an what’s left of the lilacs. They adore the foxgloves. No feeders. No red. Plenty of hummer visits.

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

A bowl of strawberries warm with afternoon sun is reward enough after a day in the garden. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

A bowl of strawberries warm with afternoon sun is reward enough after a day in the garden. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)