SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


For Whom The Grass Grows: Not Thee!


May 26, 2010

Ketchikan, Alaska - Ah spring, when everyone's hopes are eternal and every team still has a chance.

No, I'm not talking about baseball. I'm talking about gardening. In Our Fair Salmon City.

jpg Dave Kiffer

It's May and that means everyone is dutifully surveying the Back Muskeg and pondering the imponderables.

Like "Is coho manure really better than cow manure?"

Or "Why do folks persist in trying to grow things that require 'direct sunlight' here?"

Or "Why have so many fungus gnats been elected to the State Legislature?"

Yes, hope spring eternal, doesn't it?

And if you don't think folks are "teeming" to do this, then you haven't been at the local garden emporiums on recent weekends. Dozens of them picking over "plantlets" and comparing mulch and pondering what kind of "flaming fountain" would look best next to the hydrangeas on the deck. And yes, teams are involved. One member of the team picks out the stuff, while the other member carries it.

We are in the middle of one of the most verdant spots on earth and yet, folks - including some that I know very, very well - persist in wanting to create more "growth" and will go to great lengths to accomplish it.

It's probably the same genetic thing that has been infesting this continent for the past five centuries.

No question about it, the first "settlers" to the continent five hundred years ago (as opposed to the first inhabitants who came here several thousand years ago) were not "xeriscapists." No modern let nature be nature ethos for them.

When faced with a big green continent, they immediately started clearing, burning and hauling out stumps. Then they started landscaping. I'm sure the first fifteen different varieties of peonies were planted by early 1493.

I guess, in general, folks just don't like to see green very much. Which makes it hard for them to look around these here parts and be satisified. We have about a million colors in the woods here and all of them are green.

Kelly green, fern green, lime green, hunter green, olive green, moss green, sea green, pea green, sap green, midnight green, spruce green, British racing green, jade green, jungle green, hemlock green, hooker's green (just seeing if you are paying attention!), asparagus green, bull pine green, harlequin green, vegetarian diet green, India green, myrtle green, Dartmouth green, chartreuse green, cyan green, Dirty diaper green (ditto),Persian green, shamrock green, banana slug barf green!

With the exception of those little dots of yellow called Skunk Cabbage, really that's about it. It's all green.

And that drives some people crazy. Maybe it's because they "pine" for their homeland.

Home, for example, where the trees change color in the fall. Here when trees change color, it's usually right before they "fall" down.

Or perhaps they are from some place that has those weird colorful things called plants. You know, those unnatural, garish looking, genetically engineered doohickies that "bloom" and cause hay fever.

Those are the people who look out at the expansive green Southeast land color and say "we can do better!"

Be gone, you boring Sitka Spruce, hand me that absurdly expensive Japanese Maple!

To heck with that boring old fashioned Alaskan Stair Step moss, let's get some Haller's Apple Moss, or Donald Trump Haircap Moss!

And, good golley, why can't we have real grass here like the rest of the world? Let's spend a bazillion person hours hacking away granite for 10 square feet of Kentucky bluegrass in the backyard. You betcha!

Of course, you can't just consider the flora in the local gardening equation. You must also consider the fauna. The animal species that has a greater effect on our gardens than even the weather.

In some garden spots in Alaska, they have caribou and moose to contend with. But here there is a much more fearsome creature.

A creature that has been known to drive gardeners completely bonkers with worry and angst. Truly the most dreadful creature in all of the Alaskan wild, even more feared than the grizzly bear or the tax assessor.

The banana slug.

Actually, I heard someone refer to one as an "albino" slug the other day. Piker! Charlatan! Cheechako!

As usual, I digress.

Everyone knows that they are "banana" slugs, that they are the second largest variety of slugs in the world and that they are the absolutely fastest variety when it comes to the Blue Berry Festival slug race. But they are also a pain in the tookus when it comes to gardens.

My parents used to argue all the time over how to eliminate them from Mom's garden.

Dad preferred to scoop them up with a shovel and lob them into the neighbor's yard.

Mom insisted on using stale beer.

The only problem with that was (a) Dad never let any beer get stale in the house and (b) even if Mom tried to bring in stale beer from elsewhere, Dad would get to it before the slugs could.

Mom finally "solved"" the impasse by bringing in a brand of beer that so vile, so loathsome, so poor quality than even Dad wouldn't call it p--- water because that was insulting to the p--- water.

It was so bad, that even Dad and his friends wouldn't drink it when it was on special for under a buck a sixpack!!!

Mom put in on a small saucer next to her rhubarb patch. Dad just stood by the window and watched glumly.

Even the slugs wouldn't drink it.



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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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