An African violet was started from seed about four years ago provides some spring cheer on April 4, 2021, at the home of the Kachemak Gardener in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

An African violet was started from seed about four years ago provides some spring cheer on April 4, 2021, at the home of the Kachemak Gardener in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

Kachemak Gardener: Oops: Getting complacent at latitude 59.5 degrees N

I’m in a pickle. I’ve allowed myself to become complacent here at latitude 59.5 degrees north. What a mistake.

Not only do we never have “normal” weather, but what weather we have is extreme and is certainly not conducive to tomatoes.

I keep an eye on the weather channel and plot when we will throw the switch on the greenhouse. This usually happens the first of April. Not this year, not even close. We have single-digit temperatures in our future and the heaters in the SunGlo will not keep up with that.

But when I was starting seeds the end of February I had no way of knowing this was their fate, a fate of certain failure. So there they are, in the guest bedroom, under lights, looking very much like they would prefer their forever home in the greenhouse. I have transplanted them to somewhat larger pots but not nearly large enough. They have been, unfortunately, thriving and have exceeded all known space. If I can keep them alive long enough to make it out there I’ll lay them down and bury the stem with the compost that fills the bin, leaving just the very top. Roots will develop along the stem, making for a very sturdy plant. That’s Plan A.

Plan B: I’m going to start more seeds. Tomatoes are like weeds: they germinate in a heartbeat. This will actually be interesting and instead of moaning about the challenge of this I’ll embrace it. Take that Far North.

This is also the week that I start vegetables and flowers. They will just have to wait. Now you know why I am forever and a day recommending that you use the excellent nurseries right here in our little town. Let these growers turn up their thermostats and provide you with lovely starts.

The target plant out date is Memorial Day and I have been pushing that for years. Last year the vegetable garden was completely planted by May 3. Well, that was last year. Many years ago, while living at Mile 15 East End Road, I didn’t plant until the Fourth of July. We had a decent harvest.

These things happen. I’ll take the snow and cold over tornadoes/floods/toxic overflow/hurricanes, goodness, the list can really go on and on. Think about that.

Thanks for reading, I think I’ve talked myself around this sticky wicket, if I can so can you.

* * *

I just re-read the above while looking for typos (that I rarely if ever find and I know they’re there). I realized that this has happened to me before and my answer was to start all of my seeds two weeks later, i.e. the second week in March, but I have never entered that thought into my garden journal. It’s there now. If you have yet to start a journal, this is the perfect time to find a lovely notebook and use it.

* * *

Moving on: I hope you have some geraniums on your windowsill. They are probably in bloom or at least considering it. They may be a bit lanky and if so now is your opportunity to cut them back and make new ones. This goes for fuchsia too. What fun to offer a friend/neighbor a fresh plant that you have rooted yourself. You can take the cutting and either put it in a glass of water until it roots, or dip the end into a rooting hormone (Rootone) and follow the directions. I prefer to let the end dry out a little, maybe a couple of hours, and plant it into a very moist potting soil. It usually works. The main thing is, after there are roots, to get the cutting as deep into the pot as possible so there isn’t a long stalk on which the whole plant depends. Keep the foliage close to the surface so its strong and full.

Geraniums came West with the pioneers. I have a fond fantasy image of covered wagons heading through the Rockies with pots of cheery red geraniums. Granted they come in all sorts of colors now, but there is something classic about the red. There are red geraniums in a window on the way up the hill to our house and I do my best to take note every time I drive by. What a delight.

Don’t worry about your bulbs. They have an innate ability to adjust to whatever Mother Nature throws their way. I have crocus at our door step that are showing signs of life. This couldn’t be a more unfortunate spot for these lovelies but there they are, doing their best to beat the odds. I can hardly wait to move them to somewhere more comfortable.

But wait I will until this latest round of Far North weather moves along.

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

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