Kachemak Gardener: There really is more to the gardening season

This little house is surrounded by garden, thus I needed a way to designate where in the garden I would be if someone were attempting to locate me. I landed on the points of the compass. It may sound a bit pretentious for this one-third of an acre when I say “I’ll be in the West Garden” but it works. There are two gates — one is the East Gate the other the West Gate — so, if a friend is stopping by I’ll let them know which gate would be closest to where I might be. This system successfully eliminates doing laps around the house to find each other.

With our daughter and her two daughters home for ten days the garden got cursory attention and it is showing the effects. The West Garden, which has been an ongoing challenge, got laser focus on Saturday. The johnny-jump-ups needed to be removed, the earlier columbine were cut down, and — need I mention this? — weeds added to the pile. The result is a freshness that is much appreciated.

This is the bed that has the most minor spring bulbs so that first flash of color is long gone and the spent foliage was easy to remove. What is left are the shrubs. This is my plan for conquering this bed. Stuff it with shrubs and let them fill out the space. The far end is anchored by a Siberian larch with a rosa glauca tucked in the corner, then an ornamental crab, then a mountain ash with three trunks that volunteered in another perennial bed and I liked the looks of it so here it is. The end closest to the greenhouse is graced with a hydrangea paniculata that, when it blooms, is gorgeous. In between all this are three dwarf Korean lilacs.

Now, behind all of this, against the fence, are four arborvitae that are quite spectacular and offer our neighbor some privacy. Methinks I’ve got this West Garden where I want it, somewhat easy to maintain, and quite lovely throughout the growing season.

Which brings me to my friend Jane Wiebe. She is an avid gardener and has some very specific needs to be met in her garden that were not working out last year so she gave me a call to come take a look and maybe I could see some way out of her puzzle. All she needed was to hear herself tell me what she didn’t like, we made a few quick, painless changes and there it is, under control, more or less.

So I wanted to get a picture of it all and made a visit last week. Oops. Jane has been busy with her relatives (I certainly could sympathize) and there were approximately one million Lauren’s Grape purple poppy seed heads. Everywhere. No. I had two thoughts: 1) not a good picture 2) how can she stand looking at this? This is the part of the garden that Jane sees from her kitchen window, the room where those of us who would rather be outside tend to spend a great deal of our time. Between the two of us we made short work of removing the spent plants, leaving just enough seed heads to offer up volunteers for next year. If you have these poppies treat them with respect because they have countless seeds in each pod. They can be relentless. Your job is to keep them dead headed.

Once Jane’s bed was cleaned up the rest of the plants that had been buried were glorious. The results of cutting down/pulling out spent plants never fails to astonish. The garden gets a whole new lease on life. There really is more to the gardening season. And Jane gets to look out her kitchen window at loveliness.

Color starts to fail right about now so you need to rely on annuals (the plants that last just one season) with their ongoing color, and asiatic lilies. For annuals I rely on godetia. This plant is falling out of favor, considered “old fashioned,” but I think the real reason is the branches break at the least provocation. They are just starting to bloom right now and I know there will be a big wind/rain event along with Jade the Dog and bam there goes a whole section of godetia. But if none of that happens the colors will be deeply appreciated from wherever we are in the garden. They are worth it.

Enough about flowers. On to the vegetable plot. Harvesting is underway — my least favorite garden chore. It signals the end. The big heads of broccoli are tucked into the freezer with side shoots producing more than enough for fresh eating. The romanesque cauliflower is also in the freezer. These two are the mainstay of our vegetable consumption all winter long. Yes, there is also spinach and chard keeping them company in the freezer. The carrots are keeping the grands happy along with shelling peas. The fennel wants to bolt this year so I’m harvesting that as fast as I can. It will hold in the refrigerator for a bit. The red cabbage and Brussels sprouts have plenty of time to develop a little more heft. The lettuce is still lovely and the second cutting of chard and sorrel are adding interest to a salad.

Did you know you can hill carrots to prevent green shoulders? Did you know this and not tell me? Good grief. What a simple solution. I haven’t pulled a potato yet but that should happen any day. You don’t need to wait for them to bloom. Reach down there and feel around if they are big enough for you pull some out.

The tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. Taking their sweet time, I’ll say, but worth the wait. And it’s a good thing we like cucumbers. Pesto has been made and the next round of basil will be for the forthcoming tomatoes. Bliss.