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Kip Anderson
Gardener Kip Anderson

May: Waiting Patiently

Kip watches over the garden as it begins to fulfill its promise
by Kip Anderson

Here in Massachusetts (about USDA zone 6) May is the month when the vegetable garden is laden with promise. In April only faith and hope are available to lure us outside to begin working in the recently thawed planting beds. But now the peas are starting to flower, lettuce heads are putting on some size, and robust specimens of spring broccoli should be showing the first signs of flower buds within a week or two. (Yes, a head of broccoli is nothing more or less than a massive cluster of unopened buds. If you don't believe me, just let your broccoli stand in the field a couple of weeks too long.) Soon, provided all goes as expected, we will be enjoying the fulfillment of all our effort: bragging rights served roundly at the kitchen table.

So while we're waiting, how about some hors d'oeuvres, some eye-candy perhaps? The perennial border is also full of promise, but here and there (and if we've been diligent, nearly everywhere) are long-stemmed delectations in shades of purple. I'm referring to Allium of course, the ornamental onions that take charge after tulips and daffodils have retired from the field. A good bulb catalog will offer a dozen or more tall species and varieties. Some of my favorites are A. christophii, A. giganteum, A. schubertii, A. aflatunense, and 'Globemaster'. I can think of no better way to spend a day in August than to place an order for large quantities of allium bulbs. Actually, I can think of better ways to spend a day in August, but none that will yield such fine rewards the following May except for conceiving a baby.

Lately I've been taking long walks in the woods, clearing brush from some of the less well-maintained trails. The idea here is to be able to walk these trails in the summer without brushing up against foliage that may harbor ticks. I guess the joke is on me: so far, beginning in March, I've pulled out three ticks that were embedded in my skin, one of them in a place I'd rather not mention. The good news is that they were dog ticks and not the dreaded deer tick. Even so, they leave welts that can last for months. I've found that soaking the wound in a warm saltwater solution a couple times per day greatly facilitates healing, but this is not so easy to do if the tick was located in, say, an armpit. Anyway, folks, be careful out there. We may not have scorpions or grizzly bears in New England, but we have creatures that can hurt you more than walking into a wild blackberry thicket can.

Kip Anderson has been the Victory Garden's head gardener for over 20 years.

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Published August 31, 2007