Kachemak Gardener: Small garden wonders ease pain of losses

Remember: You’re gardening for yourself.

Well here I am, completely consumed by the failure of the established perennial beds and almost forgot about the vegetable garden. Good grief. As of today, I have straightened out my priorities: food first and foremost.

It has been covered with floating row cover, and it must be an “out of sight out of mind” mentality that has lulled me into complacency. No longer. I uncovered each bed, one at a time and thoroughly cultivated. This activity breaks up the surface tension of the soil, so when it rains or you water, the water actually penetrates to the roots instead of rolling off. I took this opportunity to add a weak solution of fish emulsion to each plant. Just read the label and cut the prescribed amount in half. I’m to the point now where I just add a splash to the watering can, mix completely and apply directly to the plant after I’ve thoroughly watered with the hose. Adding fish emulsion is just something that I do with no real reason. I think it can’t hurt and will probably give the plants a bit of a boost. Couldn’t we all use a little boost?

This vegetable plot has successfully produced for 22 years, and I’m not going to argue with success. The compost that is liberally applied can’t hurt either.

Oh, and the weeds. The weeds love it under floating cover just as much as the primary plants. There are all kinds under there, and at this time of the season, they are young and tender enough to make for easy pulling.

I know there are those of you who would rather not weed, so feel free to ignore this chore. BUT the unwanted plants are using any nutrients and water in the soil that your food plants could be using. There is only so much to go around.

All in all, the vegetables are looking good so far. I removed the floating row cover from the allium bed: garlic (both fall and spring planted), two kinds of onion and the shallots. They looked so bent over and claustrophobic that I just had to set them free.

Last season the plot was invaded by rodents that just couldn’t get enough of the cole crops. I replanted just about a million times. Very frustrating, and, who knows, the next generation of rodents could be on there way at this very moment, plotting their consumption of MY vegetables. There’s always something.

For some reason, optimism maybe, I’m still waiting for the asparagus to make an appearance. I’ll leave the crowns (roots) in place. You never know. Everything is so late and slow that just maybe there will be a spear or two any day now, and I don’t want to miss that.

Let’s take a look in the greenhouse: only three tomato plants this year. Although I try a new one every year, this year’s candidate failed at the seedling stage. So much for that. The remaining three are standards for us: Brandywine (the perfect BLT tomato), Sakura and Black Japanese Trefele. They are all loved. They look good and strong, setting fruit and many many blooms. This should be a good year. The cucumbers are looking good, although those of you who use our excellent nurseries and bought starts are way ahead of mine. That said, they are setting, look strong and the promise of too many cucumbers awaits. Not a bad thing.

There are four purple bush beans in there; two were set in as starts and two from seed. All four look promising. There will be more beans in the vegetable plot, but these will be much earlier and deeply appreciated before the outside beans are producing. I use the purple ones because they seem to be much earlier than the green. No idea why, but I’m all about early.

I had a lady bug land on my sleeve today, and I gently trapped her/him and put it in the greenhouse. The doors and vents are open during the day, so if it doesn’t find it to its liking, it is free to leave. The lady bug larva eats aphids, so the actual bug itself needs to get busy laying eggs to make a difference if and when there are any aphids in there. These pests usually show up later in the season, especially if it’s dry and you have birch trees nearby. The best method of eradication (in my opinion) is to use the brass nozzle on your hose and blast them off the plant. Repeat this for about three or four days and you should be in the clear. If the plant is in a pot, attempt to not saturate the soil, perhaps tipping the pot on its side when you blast.

I am determined to have success with basil. Now that John has discovered he really DOES like pesto, after many many years of avoidance, I need to make a harvest happen. There are four different methods out there, sort of like a science fair project, and it will be interesting to see who wins.

All right, now I’m ready to talk about the perennial beds. My goodness. After a significant amount of panic buying, I think that all has been done that can be done. As usual, there is no planning as to what went where. Once again, it’s all willy-nilly, some of this, some of that, exactly what I wanted to avoid. I can’t explain it. Fortunately, the Asiatic lilies will be making an undaunted effort, bless their hearts. If you don’t have any of these, correct that. They come in various heights and colors; they are hardy, don’t need staking (most of them), bloom a long time, multiply freely, so what’s not to love? And they didn’t die along with everything else.

I turned my attention to the shrubs this past week. The mock orange in the East Garden, right by the French doors where we have morning tea, is so very too large for the location. Poor thing. So, it gets periodically hacked at. This creates some ugliness, i.e. dead wood. So, pruners and loppers in hand, I cleaned it up. Did the same thing with the roses that I see from the kitchen window (I spend too much time at the kitchen sink). The little spirea on the corner of the deck, the Theresa Bugnet roses and the lilacs all got freshened up. It is amazing what a huge improvement on the overall appearance of these shrubs when the deadness is removed; they look so ready for anything.

Oh, what fun: for the first time ever, after years and years of scattering Scilla and chionodoxa seed under the red twigged dogwoods, some took and actually bloomed. Small wonders.

Don’t forget, not for one moment, that you garden for yourself. That this is your garden, and you get what you want from it, be it peace of mind or fresh salad. If all it takes is a pot of nasturtiums at your stoop to welcome you home and put a smile on your face, so be it.

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

The Sun Disc with its 1-inch bloom and 8-inch stature comes on early and strong, easily multiplying in your perennial beds. Because both of these bulbs are short, their spent foliage is easy to hide once your perennials come into their own. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

The Sun Disc with its 1-inch bloom and 8-inch stature comes on early and strong, easily multiplying in your perennial beds. Because both of these bulbs are short, their spent foliage is easy to hide once your perennials come into their own. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)