Kachemak Gardener: Warm temperatures bring a great garden

This weather is garnering excellent results in the vegetable garden. Granted I’m writing this Sunday night and there is no telling what will be happening by the time you read this, but for now high 60s and low 70s is making for some gorgeous onions.

The garlic is taking its sweet time to die back. It is usually laid out in the basement to dry by the first of August. Not this year, but I’m not at all concerned; it will get there. I haven’t even taken a peek and am very curious to see what’s been going on down there since last fall. The shallots that started from seed this spring are huge. These are so incredibly easy to grow. Unlike the garlic that gets tucked in about October and makes me fuss and fret if there is too much rain. I actually lose sleep thinking that those lovely cloves are rotting in situ. For mulch I’ll throw Christmas tree boughs on after the tree comes down, but that’s it. Keep in mind that the garden is at elevation 396 feet. If I should have a crop failure I will start again in the spring; the heads will be somewhat smaller but no less tasty.

The Brussels sprouts gave me pause. While I was breaking off the leaves all the way to the top I noticed that not all of the stalks were filled out. In spite of what I thought might be a failure I continued to groom them as if I would be rewarded and, sure enough, they are filling out, some more so than others. While you are removing the leaves, thus giving the little sprouts room to expand, top the plant by twisting off the top. This will slow the growth and concentrate the plant’s energy into producing sizable sprouts.

If you follow this column you might remember that I had some difficulties with birds and rodents in the cole crops this spring, which is putting it mildly. I had to scramble to replace these seedlings. But that forced me to do something that I have always wanted to try but haven’t been brave enough — stagger the cole crop planting. This has been met with success. The teeny tiny Arcadia broccoli seedlings that I popped in six weeks after the first planting are producing lovely main heads. The first round of broccoli is in the freezer and the side shoots are slowing down, so here we go with another whole crop of broccoli, which, thankfully, we really like.

I have the makings of an herb garden underway. There is only oregano and sage in there so far, but I’m hoping to add a little of this and that next spring. The idea is to locate perennial plants in the vegetable garden near each other. One entire bed is strawberries, the next one over has one 3-foot section devoted to asparagus, then the next 3 feet is the nascent herb garden. I like the way it looks.

The romanesque cauliflower had a spectacular year; it’s all in the freezer. If you haven’t tried this, please do. I only plant purple cauliflower, never again the white which the slugs love. If I haven’t seen a slug yet there will be too many in the white cauliflower as soon as I want to make the harvest. Enough. Same goes for green cabbage. I only do red/purple — it makes life a bit easier.

We’re still harvesting lettuce. I discovered Sangria from Johnny’s Seed several years ago and have never looked back. It holds well throughout the summer — no bolting, no bitterness, and it’s beautiful.

A friend gave me a chunk of sorrel a few years ago and I must say, that plant is vigorous. I have cut it back three times this summer and it just springs back with very nice fresh leaves that are delightful in a salad. This same friend suggested that I make sorrel pesto to go along with salmon. Excellent.

Speaking of pesto, my basil has been rather dismal this season. I tried something a little different and, although it is not a complete fail, neither is it the wild success I imagined. So yet another friend took a look at what I had and offered to give me some of hers which she had in abundance. Of course I asked what she did to achieve such lovely basil and her response was “I did exactly what you told me to do.” Hmm. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” I believe is the adage.

Back to the weather — the pounding rain, thunder and lightening certainly have added interest and given the television meteorologists something to trill about. The combination of rain and heat is also making the grass grow with intensified vigor. Fortunately for me, John mows; I merely run the trimmer, team work, but the mowing has seemed relentless this summer. As much as I discount grass as nothing but a chore that needs attending, there really is nothing as calming and unifying in the garden as nicely tended grass. I just wish it would stop growing at an inch and a half.

NOTE: Jim Rowe needed to move a large, well established lilac. He tied a rope to it and yanked it out with his truck, transplanted it and it never missed a beat. Keep that technique in mind.

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

Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick                                 A Theresa Bugnet rose blooms on Aug. 14 in the Kachemak Gardener’s garden in Homer.

Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick A Theresa Bugnet rose blooms on Aug. 14 in the Kachemak Gardener’s garden in Homer.