Kachemak Gardener: Take heart: Spring is rushing at us

Let’s start this by addressing the amount of snow that those of you who live at elevation are experiencing. Keep in mind that we lived at 1,466 feet for 20 years so I have a deep appreciation of your situation. It will melt. Fast. Soon.

This is not the first time that there has been a huge discrepancy in the snow depth between you and town. This may seem like an insurmountable challenge but, truly, you will get your vegetables in the ground and they will catch up to those that have been planted two weeks ahead of yours. Take heart.

Your perennials are safe, tucked in under the snow. No freeze/thaw for them to endure and possibly not survive. That cycle is the bane of the lower elevations. My fingers are crossed that we will skip that this year but there’s no telling. That’s the fate of the gardener, wait and see.

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As usual, I’m writing this on Sunday night. This morning, while in the garden I heard the sandhill cranes. These glorious creatures are like clockwork. I enter their coming and going in the garden journal, not by what the dedicated members of the Kachemak Bay Birders determine, but by when I hear/see them, right here in my own garden. Very satisfying. Plus, this past week, the bird song erupted. There are those who know which bird is singing what song. I am not one of them, yet my pleasure is not diminished. Last year we had a Pacific wren in our neighborhood and I’m rooting for a reappearance. What a singer.

You need to wait before you get out there and start cleaning up your perennial beds. I am so very tempted. I have just enough showing through the snow and ice to induce me to make some major mistakes. Those would be: pulling off the spent foliage and bringing up a good size chunk of the plant I’m trying to encourage and leaving tender new foliage exposed to a potential freeze/thaw.

But here is what I have been doing: Cleaned up the raspberry beds. This is the perfect time for this chore. If you are new to this, here are a couple of guidelines: look for the cane that produced berries last season. You can tell by the little dried cap from the berry that is still attached and by the condition of the cane itself. It will look very tired, very finished. The base will be probably split, the color will be very pale compared to last year’s canes that will be the ones producing this season. Really, just pay attention, look at the canes, you’ll see what’s going on. Cut close to the crown. Be brave.

I took a good look at the Theresa Bugnet roses. Originally there were three on the west corner of the house, along with a common lilac. They have been there forever and just about five years ago they decided to “travel.” I was amazed, impressed. I didn’t think they would do that especially after so many years of being well behaved. Well, one of the three originals has gotten very gangly, the blooms were at the very tip of the canes — not so very lovely. Every spring I take a look at it and think I really should cut it back. But it took so long for these beauties to establish that I didn’t want to rock the boat. Today I cut it back. The hope is that it will shoot up some nice new canes that will be lush, just like it used to be.

This rose is my all time favorite, at least as far as the rugosas go, which are the ones that will grow here with little to no interference on my part. It’s a soft pink and double with a delightful fragrance.

The other rugosa is the Hansa. You’ll find this one in front of the hospital. I have a thicket of them in the southeast corner and, believe me, they can travel. John keeps the perimeter mowed or else we would have them growing in the living room. These are a deep magenta with an intense cinnamon scent. Lovely but strong willed. Use these to fill in an unloved space or make a hedge. The moose will trim them but not destroy them. The trimming is actually very helpful.

We have a mock orange (one of three) that is so successful that I needed to prune it because it is blocking the stairs from the deck to the garden. I tried to ignore the need last summer, not having the heart to prune something that is such a bloomer but, really, we need to be able to get around.

So there is a lesson you can learn from my mistake – placing your shrubs and trees too close to the house or the deck or each other, all of which I have done. Please, read the labels and believe what you read. I think the mock orange (and I encourage you to plant these) in particular will exceed the limitations of the label. They get really huge. I think two of ours are at least 12-14 feet tall.

This brings me to the greenhouse. This is where most of the action is right now. We have two space heaters out there and we waited an extra two weeks to get them fired up. The single digits we were experiencing were too much for them to keep up with, but now the temperature has shot up and they are hardly coming on.

The tomatoes were so desperate to be planted, so straggly, so annoyed with me and the situation. I had to lay them diagonally in the bin, covering their stems and leaving just about 4 inches exposed. They are looking excellent in spite of the kerfuffle.

The sorry looking lettuce seedlings that I tucked in are also looking just fine. The radishes are up. I potted up the alliums: two kinds of onion and shallots. I failed to do this in a timely fashion last season and paid dearly for that mistake — won’t make that one again.

Take heart gardeners, we may be having a late spring but it’s rushing at us and before you know it will be summer with very little spring.

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

A sure sign of spring is crocuses blooming in front of the Homer Bookstore, as seen here in this photo taken on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

A sure sign of spring is crocuses blooming in front of the Homer Bookstore, as seen here in this photo taken on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)