Kachemak Gardener: Weather is scary but artichokes are fabulous

Of all the years to run out of lettuce it had to be this one. There has been a steady stream of family and friends running through this little house and garden — lots of good conversation, laughter, garden appreciators and eaters of salads. My plan of starting four lettuce seedlings every 10 days works for the two of us and the on-and-off guests, but this has been a summer of throngs. I bought a head of lettuce. At least it’s locally grown. I did go ahead and seed in two short rows and the seeds have germinated and the little tiny seedlings hold promise. We may have our own salads in the near future, if all goes well.

What to make of this remarkable weather. On the one hand it’s scary; on the other, the artichokes are fabulous. We can hardly spend time on our deck — it’s much too hot. We are grateful for the East Garden for mornings and the West Garden for afternoons. The deck comes into play in the evening and the Derek chairs have seen much use.

The vegetable garden is planned around the two of us with grandchildren grazing through it at will. But feeding between five and nine people for days on end has taken a toll. Combine heavy usage with a low yield due to the heat and I’m not sure how much will go to the freezer to make our ever-so-long winter a bit more joyful. We’ll see.

The garlic has been harvested. This is the first time ever I have pulled garlic when the ground is dry. How easy: just brush off the dirt and there is a lovely head of the most delicious garlic ever. There really is nothing like your own garlic. It snaps, it squirts juice, and the aroma fills the kitchen. What an unmitigated delight. Although, really, that goes for anything that you grow and harvest yourself. More of you need to be feeding yourselves. Think about this.

The artichokes are the best ever. I grow Green Globe. This is a perennial everywhere else in the world but here. I have tried this and that to keep it over with zero success. I have accepted this. Thus, I start two new plants from seed every spring and reap the rewards usually in September. Not this year. The main buds seem ready to eat, but with this warmth I’ll hold off as long as I can to see just how big they’ll get. Interesting, because they are already bigger than I have ever seen. The side shoots are coming on and it looks like there will be about a dozen on each plant. The main bud is the largest with secondary buds diminishing in size as you go down the stem. They are still ever so delicious.

The pink Yukon Golds are still a mystery. Not only that but their vines are going down. I really don’t want to harvest them, it being too warm to store them anywhere at all. So we are eating them. Not a bad option.

The watering is becoming tedious. I’m a believer in watering with a hose. It gives me a chance to really look at the plants and determine what they do or don’t need. It gives me time to think about what I’ll do differently next season; what needs to be moved where.

We no longer water trees and shrubs. These plants are firmly established and on their own. They really don’t need us. But the perennials have taken a hit. The diverted water from our sump pump fills a barrel and John takes it upon himself to water them. I use city water (chlorine and all with everything thriving) on the vegetables. So the vegetables are well tended. But the barrel is barely filling. A quick consultation with John and the decision was made to use city water (= money) on the perennials. So this morning saw me with hose in hand taking my first good look at the perennial beds. It’s surprising how much I saw just standing there with a hose rather then on my hands and knees crawling around weeding and/or deadheading. Except for the obvious flaws they really don’t look all that bad. I may start watering them twice a week with city water, but the cost is something that needs to be taken into consideration. Food is one thing; ornamentals quite another.

The hornets are here. They may have chosen to make a late appearance but I think they were marshaling their forces. John has attacked two hives with about a trillion bees in each.

The bumble bees that came so very early are still here in force. I need to know more about these ever-so-industrious creatures. But there hasn’t been time for any kind of research about anything at all. Between the demands of family, friends and garden I have hardly taken a breath.

Enter Debi Poore, an artist with an artist’s garden (the very best kind) and an invitation to a garden tea. I was cutting it close to get there on time and my intention was to wear my one and only dress, but I had been in the garden all day. I was a mess. The thought of wearing that dress was like putting gift wrap on a rusty tool. I opted to take a quick shower and be five minutes late. Wise choice. How often do I get to wear a dress and sip iced herb tea in lovely surroundings? Not often enough. Let this be a lesson to all of us: more garden parties, preferably spontaneous.

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