There’s still work to do in Homer gardens

Editor’s Note: This is the Kachemak Gardener’s last column of the season.

If fate led me to become an apple vendor I would make a slim living indeed. The “grands” have been ever so game eating these barely ripe apples, apparently anything with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on it immediately becomes palatable.

But, in light of my very marginal success with these apples, maybe next year climate change will grace us with a few more really red ones that certainly did snap when bitten into and had a delightful taste. There just weren’t very many of them.

Which brings me to our recent trip to the East Coast. I haven’t been there during fall foliage season in 45 years. Now, here in Homer, it makes sense to run your mower over the fallen leaves so they can provide nutrition to the trees. No raking.

If you happen to live in Syracuse, N.Y., that would not be an option. There are enough leaves to bury you, your car, perhaps your house. Gone are the days of raking up the leaves and burning them — such a delightful smell. Here are the days of raking them to the curb and a city truck comes along and — are you ready? — VACUUMS the pile into another truck. It was a very loud operation. Good grief. And don’t get any of the residents started on the taxes they pay for the service. We live in a very different world.

And there I was, in the middle seat on a transcontinental flight and, of course, the guy with the window strikes up a conversation. He is so heavily accented that I had trouble understanding him, but I did glean that he is a math professor at Boston College on his way to a conference at Stanford. And, of course, he asked me what I do. This has been a perennial problem question for me. Never having focused on a career, I am at a loss for a concise answer. Concise here is the key. There is no simple answer. I paused and answered “I live.”

Fortunately for me this short conversation occurred on the return trip. We had been negotiating traffic in Boston which is overpopulated by about a zillion. We were looking forward to Homer. My mind had already turned to the garden and what I had to look forward to. Peace.

The garden just won’t quit. There is a delphinium out here that has shot up a stalk that looks ready for anything. But the rest of them have been laid to rest on top of the foxgloves to offer some protection from the freeze/thaw cycles that we may or may not experience this coming year. Be careful with your delphiniums. They have a hollow stalk and if you just cut them down they may fill with water and rot the crown. No more delphinium. I just bend them down and use them as mulch for whatever may be around them. Using your annuals for this may backfire. If they have gone to seed, you will be encouraging massive amounts of seedlings come spring. This happened with the Lauren’s Grape poppy last year. Everywhere.

Your peonies should be ready to cut down. Be sure to burn the foliage or take it to the dump. Don’t compost it, it may contain bacteria that isn’t anyone’s friend.

The William Baffin rose that is on the street side of the house, thus unprotected by the fence, is caged, a chore accomplished before we left. There is a cow with twin calves roaming the neighborhood and it only takes once to destroy this rose. It has happened before. I screwed hooks into the siding, shaped fencing to enclose the rose and hang on the hooks. I use it year after year and, so far, has been successful. That is the catch. If you don’t want to cage, don’t plant it. I truly believe there is nothing safe from moose. They may not eat the whole plant but they will take nibbles. Think about this.

There is still weeding to be done. Really. Go take a look. Might as well get them out sooner rather than later. And planning, always planning. Be thinking now if you want hardscaping (decks, walks, realign a driveway, etc.) installed next year. Now that most of the plants are dying back you can see what you have going on, what mistakes you made, what successes you have.

The tools are all sharpened, oiled, sanded and put up in the tool shed. I save egg shells all year to use as a slug deterrent. I grind them in the blender and sprinkle them around immediately in the spring and then throughout the growing season. It may not be the answer but it helps.

If you didn’t have a vegetable garden this year, please consider doing so in the coming season. I do all I can to encourage you to take action; to enable you to fend for yourself, at least somewhat. Be brave.

To “live” takes planning.

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