Cold winds. Single digits for the next five days or so. Who knows?
I have been coaching my plants: “Don’t listen to the varied thrush. They’re early. Don’t you follow suit. Hang on. Wait. Patience. Survive. Pleasepleaseplease ...”
I’m grateful for the spruce boughs that have been covering the perennial beds throughout this very mild winter. I often thought that they were out there for naught. No. They are right where they should be — protecting perennials from the vagaries of March and April.
But what about the clematis alpina? That dazzling early bloomer of the deep blue blooms with its leaves almost unfurled at this very cold moment. Wait and see. Wait. And. See.
I really believe that there is only so much interfering with nature. I will only go so far in protecting them from the truth. Spruce boughs are about it. Planting perennials, trees and shrubs that really and truly thrive here is another. With this topsy turvy weather there is only so much that can be asked of the tried and true plants that I have relied on all these years. They really and truly want to break dormancy. They want to answer the call.
My focus is on the seedlings under the lights in the guest room. They are magnificent. They will be ready for the greenhouse the first of April. That is, if the first of April is ready for them.
I have the lettuce seedlings on a 10-day rotation. Every 10 days I start four more plants. We are a household of two, and this actually presents a problem, believe it or not. Planning for the vegetable plot has become second nature. I know just how much of what for the two of us to make it through the year with our own organic vegetables tucked into the freezer and pantry.
But there are three “grands” and two more who visit for two weeks come summer. I like to have enough edible pod peas for them to snack on. And carrots. And kale. And sorrel. The list goes on. Needless to say, the older they get the more snacking goes on around here. Thankfully. So I keep expanding the quantities and varieties. We just might need a larger plot.
Waiting for the moment to go to the greenhouse are four kinds of tomatoes, cucumber, delphinium, pansy, shallots, two kinds of onions and artichoke,
I have taken the tuber begonias out of storage. This has been a good winter for them. I tend to be haphazard when I store them in the fall. Not this year. I have been struggling with them ever since I let 15-year-old tubers freeze a couple of years ago. The best results for me and them is when I take them out of their pots; remove any extra soil; and put them, throughly dry, into brown paper bags; label them and wish them well.
I love my tuber begonias. I love their sense of a warm welcome in the window box by the entry. I love the colors. I love how easy they are, usually. But, every year I feel a need to doubt myself about when to pot them up. When to let them see daylight, such that it is. When to get the show on the road. So, I call my friends/neighbors who live down the street and around the corner and who have a magnificent show of begonias every year and ask them. It works.
This year I have two tubers that are quite large so I took my chef knife and cut one in half and the other in quarters. I left the pieces out on the kitchen counter overnight. The next day I potted them up in the pots that will be their home for the season. I will take three of these pots and put them into the flower box, put potting soil around them to accommodate the pansies and lobelia that will keep them company. That way, in the fall I just pull the pots up and put them in the covered porch and wait for them to dry out enough to store. Slick.
Be thinking about tuber begonias. I use the uprights in the window box. There are cascading ones that are lovely in hanging baskets. They appreciate the north side of the house, out of direct sunlight and wind. I usually tuck one or two into pots on the east side of the house. They bring us immeasurable pleasure on summer mornings while we indulge in tea/coffee on the deck. I’m just sure you have a spot for them.
Seed racks are up everywhere. Make your move soon so there is a selection. But, really, I can’t stress this enough, use the nurseries.
And wait. It’s cold. March is an ogre. April not much better. This is the Far North. No room for complacency. No margin of error.
Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.