If you have held off on planting, it's now time to harden off seedlings
By Rosemary Fitzpatrick
This gardening season is off and running. Here at elevation 396 feet, I have the entire vegetable garden planted; all of the annuals have found homes; perennials are divided; and everything is looking hale and hardy. There, whew. I tried something different with the peas. Usually I soak them until little “tails” develop but not this time. I just gave them an overnight soak and planted them. The germination is excellent. I think, in the past, I let them get too soaked and then they would rot once I put them in the ground. Not so this year. Same with the beans with excellent results. Give this a try, unless you don’t have a problem with rotting seeds. I think I can be over zealous with watering and this is reflected in the soaking of seeds. Moderation is in order here. If you have held off on your planting, or live at the higher elevations, you can get on with the hardening off process for your seedlings. I like to put mine outdoors a few hours the first day and increase progressively for about five days with them ultimately spending the night out. On that night I can’t sleep, tossing and turning thinking about all the things that can go wrong. Sort of like waiting for a teenager to make curfew. When you set them out in the spot where they will be spending the summer, be sure to snuggle the root ball down a bit. This will keep the tender stem from blowing around in the wind and make for a nice sturdy plant. Life in the Far North is hard enough for these plants, blowing in the wind needn’t be added to their challenge. I cover the cole crops with floating row cover to thwart the fly that lays the egg that is also know as a root maggot. These larvae can destroy your entire crop. Not a good thing. I also slide a three inch skewer down the stem to ward off cutworms. I hate these creatures. They can level seedlings with amazing speed. They also are cyclical. I’m not sure where in the cycle they are, but I can’t be too cautious. Better to take a minute for prevention then lose the whole kit and caboodle. I think cutworms are at the lower elevations. For the 20 years we lived at elevation 1,466 feet, I never saw one. Oh, on the same note, I killed my first slug — IN MAY. Never have I seen a slug this early. The onslaught hits in August with the rains. NOT MAY. Yikes. Usually the entire garden is swathed with floating row cover but not this year. The weather is so mild and all of the vegetables that I grow are cold hardy. I thought this would be a good year to take advantage of climate change and see what will grow on its own. The peas were up first then radish and lettuce. Things are looking positive. Have you gotten your perennials divided? It’s not too late but you will have to act soon. Take heart and courage and get the job done. I used a saw a lot this year. It seemed the most expedient way to make the divisions, brutal but fast. Be sure to give the new division a good watering. Although the skies have been threatening to rain, not much has really shown up. That means you need to water. The perennials don’t seem to mind but if you, like me, have interplanted annuals with them, you need to water. We have a slick system for water. Being on city water and sewer has many advantages but watering your garden is not one of them. It gets expensive. John has devised a way to reroute the water from our sump pump to a barrel with a small motor that gives us pressure. This barrel of water is used exclusively on the perennials beds, not the vegetables or the greenhouse. I need clean water for food and I don’t entirely trust the runoff water. But, that said, we can water to our hearts delight and the garden looks it. Another really lovely project that he completed — a buried hose to the vegetable garden. Now I just deal with half the length of hose. Lovely. I’m using a rusted out watering can attached to a fence post to coil the hose around. Excellent. I was at my neighbors, they are installing a brand new garden at their new house and I noticed that they have planted their shrubs too close to the walls. This is such a common mistake, one I’ve made here and you would think I’d have that figured out. So, please, when you are putting in plants next to your house give them room. The tags that come with them will tell you what their mature height and width are. Pay attention. Are you keeping a gardening journal? I have for years and yet I hardly ever refer to it. Interesting. So I looked up what the names are of the all the bulbs that are scattered around here and I can never remember what they are. I can’t read my writing. May you have better luck with yours. Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.