Goodness. Keep gardening — it’s not over

In spite of the rain we took off in our camper and drove the Denali Highway. Goodness. Gorgeous fall colors although we were too late for blueberries of which there are miles and miles of them. If this is a trip you have yet to take, do consider it. The road is gravel/mud and quite rough; the lodges are minimal so a camper is a good idea. Wildlife was few and far between. Hunting season was in full swing so we think the animals were driven back from the road. But we did see trumpeter swans, one family had six cygnets which must be some kind of record. Northern hawk owls, robins, Canada jays, ravens and a shrike rounded up the count. Interesting. We also observed spruce expanding their boundaries from tree line up the mountain sides. We have read about this but the evidence was clear. Changing climate.

Oh, and the sand dunes. Real honest to goodness sand dunes.

But the most interesting thing was right here on the peninsula at Mile 49, Mystery Creek: lupine in full bloom. Lupine, the end of September. Go figure. They looked like it was the first bloom, having missed the early onset altogether.

We got home in time to go to Tina’s and pick a basket of apples. Now if you have successful apple trees (hers are the stalwarts Parkland and Norland, one of each) may I be so bold to suggest you make an apple tart, or, in my case, three — in one week. Don’t peel your apples. The skin is so thin and delicate they just bake right into the pie. Plus the apples are not all that large so if you don’t peel you have that much more apple in your pie.

I know I’m supposed to prune out the nodes of little apples every year on my columnar tree, leaving room for them to achieve some size. Lynne took care of that chore for me this year because I am reluctant to do it myself. But next year I will buck up and leave just one little apple to each cluster, maybe they will get more size to them. Wish me (or Lynne) luck.

This tree has been here for eight years. I know this because two of them were planted the same summer we brought Jade the Dog home as a puppy and she ate, yes ate, one of the trees. So there it stands, full of apples, very columnar as its name implies, and somewhat lonely. Plus the apples are way later than everyone who planted sensible varieties. There you have it.

Get your garlic in. Keep in mind that the larger the clove the larger the resultant head. Eat the little ones. Cheryl, who is somewhat new to gardening, mulched hers last year with the spent pea vines and not only did they successfully mulch the garlic but the remaining pea pods sprouted and she got more peas than she bargained for. Excellent.

Before you go overboard mulching your garlic consider your elevation. Granted, if you are high enough to have your growing season significantly shortened, go ahead and mulch but, if you are lower and have more time, go easy. I seldom mulch but Cheryl, who is a bit higher than me, had earlier garlic than I did so I’m taking a page from her book. The pea vines look good, won’t blow away, certainly won’t suffocate the garlic, I’ll be able to easily check on their progress in the spring, and when all is said and done, throw them into the compost. Nothing to lose. I have three kinds this year: Inchelium Red, I plant this every year. It is adaptable to a wide variety of growing conditions (which we certainly have), produces a large head of excellent garlic, and stores beautifully. Then Jeanne tried Music and had good luck with that so I’m giving it a try. Then I threw in some Spanish Roja. If they all work I’ll be a happy cook/eater.

Which brings me to black currants. I put in two of these last year and had to move them this spring. I underestimated their size. They did not produce more than a couple of cups and that certainly isn’t enough. Which got me to thinking that they may not be in the most advantageous location. Then, Jan called and offered me two more. Of course I said yes, because I really do want black currants, but, really where am I going to put them? This one-third acre is getting a bit crowded. Well, if I want currants bad enough I’ll make room, which is exactly what I did. We’ll see which planting thrives.

Is there such a thing as enough bulbs? No. I’m adding narcissus Pheasant’s Eye, tulip Aveyron, and a clutch of camassia which I have always wanted and now have. Our daughter, Andrea will be sending a package of wood hyacinths from her garden. I have yet to see these offered up here and research says they are a zone four. We’ll see how they do.

The greenhouse is very clean and very empty. It seems so odd to walk in there and not eat a tomato. But the bins are full of fresh compost, just waiting for the next growing season. There is something satisfying in that.

I’m not in any hurry to harvest the remaining carrots, Brussels sprouts and red cabbage. One of the two Small Sugar pumpkins was failing, the stem was molding so I brought it in. I’m hoping it ripens. The other one is almost all orange. The mystery squash is hanging in there but I have no idea when it will be ready.

As you harvest pile up the foliage for next years compost pile. Try to chop it into small pieces to give it all a head start on decomposition. You must know someone with a horse that is just standing around processing hay. Get a shovel and add that to the pile. Really, you can make compost, been happening for centuries.

Keep gardening, it isn’t over.