Last year’s loss an opportunity to try something new

Egad! Methinks it has been a whole month since I last talked to you. There is much to be said, put down your gardening tools and have a read. Add a cup to tea to that scenario. 

Everything about this gardening season has been interesting. And odd.

You may recall that I lost all the raspberries. “We” built four raised beds about three feet square and I stuffed four Durham early red raspberry roots into three of them. Into the fourth went Brandywine, a purple raspberry I intellectually know will not thrive, perhaps not even survive, but my heart does so want purple raspberries. Actually, I don’t know if any of these will survive. I did zero research, a catalog came and I ordered. They came bare root. I retrieved them from the mail box at 10 p.m. and they were in the ground by 10:30 p.m. Don’t fool around when you order bare root, they need to hit the dirt running. I regretted not checking the mail earlier in the day. Who knows if they are going to make it, but they were inexpensive and worth a try. We’ll see what happens. 

I decided against begging berry plants from friends. I don’t know anyone whose plants are really thriving, so I left well enough alone. Perhaps it is time for Homer to get new/different stock? Supposedly our raspberries were struck by phytophera, aka root rot. A friend with a famous patch more than 50 years old lost all of them about two years ago and at first root rot was blamed. She now doubts that diagnosis and we are all left wondering just exactly what happened to those berries. My berries drowned in a slowly sinking site, the ice of winter past was the last challenge. 

The strawberries given to me are magnificent. Thirty of the tried and true Sitkas and a dozen of Ft. Laramie. The original “Doris James” I was able to glean are just barely hanging on. I am keeping this new batch of berries trimmed of their runners. I had gone the mat route (where you just let them fill in their allotted space with the new plants forming at the ends of the runners) but I only got berries around the edges of the raised beds. Time to try something different; this time around I am ready for anything. 

I’ve been thinking about trees that tend to sucker. That would be the shoots that come up from the base. Some lilacs will sucker like mad. One of our mountain ash enthusiastically shoots out suckers. I have ceased to cut them down. This tree will become a bush. Since I have stopped trying to make this tree do what I want it to do it is much happier and I can put energy elsewhere. I have since read that removing suckers is best done when the plant is dormant. Which makes sense. While asleep it won’t know that you are messing around, but when fully awake and suckering and you are cutting it will just make more and more suckers to satisfy whatever its need is to do so. Leave well enough alone.

The slugs are soon to make their appearance and you need to be ready. They love the August rains and have been laying in wait for their chance to slime their way into your life. Here they come. My first line of defense is to remove any vegetation that is laying on the ground allowing easy access to the plant. I don’t leave any trimmings in the path, they immediately go into the compost pile. Eat your lettuce as fast as you can because it will be the first casualty. Once the slugs find it, compost it. Find something else to make a salad. Get your green cabbage into storage/refrigerator/sauerkraut, whatever, but harvest it. Red cabbage is the answer to your cabbage needs, the slugs leave it alone. Remember that for next year. 

Harvest. Don’t stop until you have it all in. Better you eat/preserve the harvest than the slugs. Leaving it out is feeding the mollusks and encouraging them to lay eggs and it goes on and on. Despicable creatures. 

I find killing them pointless; they are legion. The odds are against you. But if you insist, lay traps i.e. shingles, pieces of wood in the path and in the morning flip said weapon over and scrape them into a bucket of vinegar solution. Or feed them to the chickens. Or …  Good luck. 

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    You know my perennial beds died last year, including the grass. As much as I give lip service to enjoying the prospect of the opportunity to try something new, my heart is clenched. I miss my garden so much. I find myself replacing lost plants with more of the same, I loved them. I want them back. 

 For the time being it is stuffed with annuals. Johnny-jump-ups allowed to run amok. The perennials that I started from seed are buried under more poppies than I have ever seen growing in one place. My frantic attempt to give life to so much death.

And I have a garden party. 

Now that’s bold. 

I chose my guest list with care. I needed experienced gardeners who would understand the depth of the loss. The breadth of work it will entail to reconstruct this garden. I needed empathy. And empathy they gave me. Grateful I am.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.