Muscari at its peak of perfection, as seen in the Kachemak Gardener’s garden on May 27, 2019, in Homer, Alasa. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

Muscari at its peak of perfection, as seen in the Kachemak Gardener’s garden on May 27, 2019, in Homer, Alasa. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

Kachemak Gardener: This is the perfect gardening weather — really

Uh oh. All the mountain ash berries that the Bohemian waxwings did not show up to eat? Sprouting in every single bit of bare earth there is to be had. If they are in the lawn the mower will make quick work of them, but the perennial beds are another matter, indeed. Yikes.

Aside from that observation I must say we have been having perfect gardening weather. I know there are those of you who will disagree, perhaps vehemently. Yes, we had the promise of a very early spring in March and our hopes were dashed — you might even say crushed. But, this being the sub-Arctic what, really, did you expect?. So here we are. The meteorologists have determined that this is the wettest May on record. I say “Hurray.” Our springs are usually ever so dry. Watering is the order of the day every day, but not this year. The ornamental and vegetable beds are delighted. Everything I have out here is rejoicing in the misty-moisty days with enough warmth to make the day pleasant. Be thankful I say; revel in this, consider this good fortune.

The weeds are just as delighted as our tended plants. The trick here is to let the volunteer seedlings get big enough so you can tell one from the other. As usual, the Lauren’s grape poppy has seeded all over the place and that may sound like a good idea, but it isn’t. There are just too many of them and the need to thin them is dire. So, if a few zillion of them go the way of the chickweed I don’t feel much remorse. Take this into consideration as you go about early weeding. But the baby blue eyes are so important, and such a lovely understory for absolutely everything else, that you (I) will need to be cautious.

The vegetable garden is thriving under these growing conditions. I have started removing the floating row cover from some of the crops. Peas, spinach and chard no longer need protection from the wind and cold. They are actually a little too warm, so I got to them in the nick of time, before they bolted (go to seed). I’m a tad concerned about the cole crops which need to be protected from the fly that lays the dreaded root maggot. I write about this each and every year — that’s how much I despise this insect. The larvae will devour the roots of your cole crops and leave you with nothing at all. There is no recovery for an afflicted planted. Nothing but doom. Let me remind you that radish falls into the category of cole crop. So, if you are finding maggots in your radishes, pull them, take them to the dump and replant someplace else. Good luck. But my concern is that the cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi, there are more) don’t like the added four or five degrees that the row cover offers. I don’t want them to either bolt or, in the case of broccoli, button. It’s a fine line of when to keep the cover on and when to uncover.

But, let’s address floating row cover. See that word “floating” — right, it just floats over your seedlings. No need for hoops, just let the material float. Secure the edges so it doesn’t blow away. A friend was here who has renewed her interest in gardening and mentioned what a nuisance it was to remove the cover every time she wanted to water. Well, yes, if you have hoops, the water just runs off the sides, but if you allow it to float, the material is permeable and you can just water to your heart’s content. Got that? Even with this misty-moisty weather, we have had days that the carrot seedlings need water. Be mindful. Pay attention.

The scissors and pruners took a trip to the kitchen sink and got a good scrubbing. This is your first line of defense if you think your tools are under performing. Once they are clean, lightly oil them. If that doesn’t satisfy your needs, sharpen them. But do what needs to be done because you are going to be doing a lot of deadheading (cutting off spent blooms) and harvesting as the season progresses.

Which brings me to the greenhouse. The tomatoes have been relieved of about half their foliage. This will improve air circulation and allow the sun to actually reach the fruit. I fall short when it comes to pinching out the suckers. I know I should do this, but I just don’t make it happen. I think the purpose is to increase production but, hey, I give away tomatoes so I must be doing something right. On that note, I will continue to do what I do. I think the defoliating helps and will carry on. I have a similar problem with thinning the apple clusters. That’s why I have a friend like Lynne. She thinks nothing at all of standing there with my little columnar apple tree and pinching out the little apples, making room for the ones left to achieve some size. Bless her heart. Maybe she should take a look at the tomatoes.

The cucumbers have set and are looking happy. We are on the second planting of basil and the Royal Burgundy beans are almost blooming. All is well.

Well, almost all is well. Porcupines have struck yet again this year. He/she has breached the fence, plowed through the raspberries and Theresa Bugnet roses and made me very sad. But why ever bother with mine when my neighbor’s are growing in the ditch, unprotected, free for the taking, nibble away, go for broke. Why? Why deal with the fence? Dreadful creatures.

Then, to add insult to injury, the day after that level of destruction, here comes Boris, the grands’ 7-month-old Lab puppy. So full of joy, so full of energy, so very LAB. He pounces on the one and only delphinium that has not been staked, crushes it to the ground and then — ready? — pees on it, all with his tail wagging and a huge smile on his face. Then, and only then, does he greet me, who is not all that excited to see him. Fate. Karma. Dogs.

We are off to an excellent second start to the growing season. Give your garden a few minutes every day and you will be rewarded.

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

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