Kachemak Gardener: Plenty of time to harvest in the land of the midnight sun

Yikes! I just spent two of the most peaceful evening hours in the garden and completely forgot that this column is due, which means I need to write it. Fortunately I keep a running list of thoughts on the counter, which is what I noticed when I finally came inside.

Not only do I thoroughly enjoy my garden, but I love the neighborhood sounds – children especially. I’m often surprised how late they stay up, but this is the land of the midnight sun.

The reason why I was out so late is the harvest is coming in. Not a minute is to be wasted; that’s all it takes (or so it seems) for the Romanesque cauliflower to start to separate. After the effort you have put into your vegetable garden, don’t stop now, harvest while the vegetables are at their peak of perfection.

The main heads of broccoli are almost all in, and side shoots are starting up. There are six plants that are younger than the bulk of the crop, so they will be harvested along with the remaining cauliflower. That results in the two vegetables being mixed and stored in recycled milk cartons. Why not? Dinner is dinner.

Why are the Sugar Ann peas always so late? I thought peas were supposed to be an early crop. Not in my garden. Never. I even set out starts thinking that will get them going and producing. No. And, why are they so huge? The package says they will be two feet tall. Never. I’m looking at six feet of peas out there. I don’t want them to spend all of their time and energy getting tall, I’m after peas. I go through this every year. But they are starting to produce and, fortunately, the grands have been here and are snacking on the early pods, much to everyone’s delight.

The carrots are looking better. There is nothing like starting the garden three weeks later than usual to make for some very diminutive carrots. But they are on a rally and, really, I am no longer interested in huge carrots. The favored variety here is Bolero. Not only is it delicious fresh, but its storing ability cannot be rivaled, thus, the best of both worlds.

The spinach is done, chard is on the second cutting and sorrel is indomitable. The radishes are finished for the season, at least at my house. The beets are glorious. Have you tried slicing them, brushing with olive oil and grilling them? Excellent. This makes me thankful for friends who share these tips with me. Don’t keep secrets, people. If you have something tasty, be sure to share the idea. Molly is making pesto with carrot tops. I’ll need to give that one some thought.

We’re still getting a handful of green beans every other day. These are the plants in the greenhouse. The ones in the garden are trying to make the most of mid-August weather; maybe they will produce and maybe they won’t, we’ll see.

The winter squash Table Princess will never catch up. I’ll try again next year, you never know.

Oh the Brussel sprouts! I only got a handful last year and those weren’t all that impressive. But this year is looking excellent. I never did figure out what the problem was, although I had been told that you never know with Brussel sprouts. They are unpredictable, but that is the first time I’ve had a fail. Not so this year; they are having a very excellent season and we will be rewarded with their success. I’m not ready to break off the leaves, leaving just the top, maybe early next week. This action is supposed to make more room for the sprout to gain size or maybe it’s to make for easier harvesting. Take your pick. Either way, I do it.

There are two cucumber plants out there and one of them is very tired. Yes, it has produced an enormous number of cucumbers, but the other plant, right next to it in a separate bin, is still going strong. Needless to say, we eat a lot of cucumbers.

The basil was a bumper crop this year. The tomatoes are finally turning red and delicious. What a delight.

On to the perennial beds that are really mostly annuals. What a challenge this facet of gardening has been this season. Many of the plants that I thought were dead are just very very slow in making an appearance. It makes me wonder if they will make it through the coming winter, if they will have enough time to recalibrate whatever it is that makes them go dormant. I’m thankful that I didn’t pull out any of the roots. Take the heuchera, aka coral bells – there were three of them out there and none showed up for the party until about three weeks ago, and now one of them is in bloom. It’s being crowded out by the million upon millions of johnny- jump-ups. All of the perennials are in the same situation, duking it out with tiny violas. In a way, it makes for a charming tableau, but then again, I’d like to see the perennials. I got into this situation because 22 years ago when the garden was a blank slate, I tossed out a few packages of seed and BAM, they are everywhere. At the moment I have too much of a good thing. I need to take the time and pull them out, they are already going to seed. Really, I’ll get to this chore sooner rather than later.

I thought the delphiniums were dying, so I divided them and they are looking remarkably hale. But I didn’t give them serious staking like I usually do because I didn’t think they would survive. The last good wind we had knocked them over, but that is to my advantage because they are now hanging upside down in the entry window drying in preparation of a future hanging from the curtain rod in the bedroom.

I continue to deadhead, especially the oodles of cosmos out there. I think the columbine are about done. I keep deadheading until I run out of patience and that’s when I declare the end of their season. Brutal I know, but there are other things that need doing.

Although the window box got compliments, I’ve been disappointed. The lobelia was almost a complete fail. I don’t know why, but they are important to cover the box itself, now the white box is blaring away like a tourist car alarm.

Keep harvesting, keep deadheading.

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