In My Garden – December 2021

In My Garden – December 2021

I know I know…where have I been? Everything is okay, I’ve just been busy everywhere but in the garden. Actually I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen either. Grilled cheese sandwiches have been on the menu many a night. I am making a New Year’s resolution to be on line more frequently (and to floss my teeth every day).

It’s the quiet season in the garden, except for the weeding. There is always weeding and now is the time to get on top of it before they get big. But weeding is my least favorite activity and wet weather has thankfully put a limit on it. I will be sorry come spring.

I purchased a dozen bags of steer manure to enhance the soil in the bed that runs beside the driveway. The Spanish lavender bushes have done well but I can’t say the same for the Dutch Iris bulbs which are between each of the lavender bushes. I think I planted the bulbs too deeply, they need to have the tops of the tubers exposed to the sun and warmth. Also, maybe our weather is just not warm enough for them. They did very well in the sunnier climate of the Bay Area. But, Fort Bragg is both foggier in the summer and quite a bit cooler. So, the plan is to dig them up, add the manure and some bone meal to the soil, and replace them with Dahlia tubers. The existing dahlia tubers I have in another bed need dividing, but I am also expecting an order of new tubers from Swan Island Dahlias in Oregon. Dahlias are very successful here and will (hopefully) make an amazing display along the driveway, stay tuned.

Another benefit will be a longer display of flowers. The Spanish lavender blooms earlier than the French, usually starting in May. The dahlias will bloom later in the summer and early fall.

Lavender

Lavender – May

You can see here that the Spanish lavender was in full bloom in May but the French lavender is just starting. It reaches its best in June and early July.

The good news is that we have had some rain, not nearly enough yet but much better than last year. The dogs are enjoying the puddles. And Shanna should be named ‘pig-pen’ as she loves the mud.

 

Shanna

Shanna @ 7 months

Adding an outdoor shower when we remodeled is one of the best ideas we had. The dogs have had the benefit of a warm water bath.

I have had a couple of shipments from Annie’s Annuals (although they are all perennials). Fall is the recommended time for planting her in California. The cooler weather and winter rains give them a chance to put down roots and become established. That is especially important for low water or drought resistant plants.

I came across an interesting article in DIY Home, a fall garden guide. It contained some helpful tips on getting your garden ready for spring.

So, here I am with a quick walk about before it’s January.

The vegetable garden has mostly finished except for lettuce and arugula.

I didn’t plant much chard or kale this year, I’m not sure why. I miss them.

The garden is mostly green this time of year although there are still some flowering plants.

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage – a hummingbird favorite

Cuphea

Cuphea micropetala
“Candy Corn Plant”

The Cupheas bloom almost non stop in my garden, I have several varieties. They have proved to be prolific, low maintenance, and drought tolerant. Both the hummingbirds and the bees adore them. Over the past 3 years the Candy Corn variety has grown into small bushes, they are positioned just below our bedroom windows. We can hear the hummingbirds chittering in the mornings as they sip nectar from the flowers.

House and beds from the back

House and beds from the back

You can just glimpse the Cupheas on the left side of the house. Everything is mostly shades of green this time of year.

I am working on an inviting seating area overlooking the pollinator garden (which mostly looks like a bunch of weeds this time of year).

I have scattered some new wildflower seeds and look forward to seeing what turns up come the warmer days of spring. I will give you an update each month as the garden comes to life.

You can see the lavender plants along the driveway in the back of the picture.

The wreath came from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Volunteers gather in early December to make them. Isn’t it gorgeous? You need to get there early to choose the best. All the greens are gathered locally.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Stay well and safe. I will see you in 2022.

Happy New Year!

In My Garden – November 2021

In My Garden – November 2021

Well, it’s been good weather for ducks this past month. I was surprised to see this one walking down our street when I went to pick up the mail. It could have been Jerimina Puddle-Duck from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. Did you know that it has been 119 years since that book was first published? Those beloved children’s stories are timeless. I quickly jumped out of the car to take her picture before she could waddle away. I don’t know where she came from, but it was too perfect.

Jerimina Puddle-Duck

Jerimina Puddle-Duck

A sudden and intense rain storm created a short lived pond on the property, it was much enjoyed by the dogs in an impromptu pool party.

Quinn encouraging Casey and Shanna to come in

Quinn encouraging Casey and Shanna to come in – come on in, the water is fine!

 

Casey braved the water

Casey braved the waters. That’s my hubby laughing at their antics.

 

Shanna

Shanna finally took the plunge, quickly running to the other shore. She wasn’t sure about the entire thing.

The rain cleared for a day and I cut back many of the perennials and scattered wildflower seeds in the pollinator garden. The seeds are already sprouting with all the wonderful wet weather. We placed a bench where you can see the pollinator garden.

New Growth

New Growth in the Pollinator Garden

The second picture above is the current view from the bench. There isn’t much to see at the moment. There will be though. I am looking forward to taking my morning tea or evening glass of wine on that bench come spring.

Meanwhile the stormy weather has produced some amazing and unusual cloud formations. This was the sky earlier this week, a portent of an impending storm that was to hit later in the day.

These are Cumulus clouds, puffy white or light gray clouds that look like floating cotton balls.

And because of the rain we’ve had a bumper crop of mushrooms this season. I’m taking a mushroom ID class later this month so I hope to be able to identify them.

Above you will find a picture of just a few. Thankfully the dogs don’t seem to be interested in eating them although I notice quite a few have been nibbled by other creatures.

The tomatoes and zucchini are now finished, we had a long harvest this year. Kale is flourishing also chard, beets, arugula and lettuce.

Kale

Kale

Arugula

Arugula

The hummingbirds are happy. The resident Annas are the only species that overwinter here on the coast. The battling Allens have migrated south for the winter. Sages are blooming, also the alstroemerias.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. Our own will be filled with many expressions of thanks as we gather for the first time in two years. I am thankful to all of you who have seen me through the long dark months of this pandemic and other struggles in this country. Thank you for your kind comments, emails and texts. They have and still do mean a lot to me.

Please be safe, get vaccinated.

Stormy seas on the coast

Stormy seas on the coast

In My Garden – October 2021

In My Garden – October 2021

The garden is finally winding down for the season. The days are shorter, nights cooler and the sunlight is somehow special. I found this description from the NY Times archive:

Spring sunshine is the awakener, rousing buds, opening leaves and flowers to clothe the earth again and bring life to the winter‐dormant world. Summer sunlight is the ripener, the hot accompaniment of growth and maturity, of fertile egg and seed, the insurance life in summers to come. Winter sunlight is a token rest, of the long sleep, the short day; it is proof that blizzards blow themselves out, that ice eventually melts, that no winter lasts forever.

But autumn sunlight is simply perfection of the day, glory of the season, the year’s high achievement, somehow. It summons one to the outdoors, where even the autumn leaves partake of it. The maples shimmer, the birches glow, and when they drop their leaves their splendor is sunlight at their feet. Roadside grasses ripen with sunlit heads of seed. The sky is clean, clear and the sun itself is benevolent, the autumn sun making an autumn day a special moment in time.

We don’t have much in the way of colorful autumn leaves here but the first windy gale of the season brought the old redwood needles onto the driveway.

windy day needle drop

windy day needle drop

As in the kitchen, we are laughing at the antics of puppy Shanna. Her ‘Harry Potter Broomstick’ otherwise known as ‘old mop’ finally broke apart and was relegated to the trash heap. That did not deter her as she immediately found a substitute, a long branch that fell out of a tree during the windstorm. It’s even longer than the ‘old mop’. Here she is swinging it around and whacking everything in sight, including poor Casey.

 

Quinn

Quinn “leave me out of it”

The broccoli and cauliflower are finished, I harvested the last two heads of cauliflower this afternoon. They are starting to bolt, much to my initial disappointment. But I found, that when roasted, the more open structure results in many more crispy bits…my favorite. It’s an unexpected benefit.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Our grass (probably more weeds than actual grass) is greening up with the cooler weather, dewy mornings and early rain. We’ve had over an inch of very welcome rain this month.

I moved a bench closer to the pollinator garden as well as a couple of half wine barrels that I will plant. I’m looking forward to having my tea or coffee and watching the bees come spring.

Pollinator Garden – October

There is not much growing here right now as California natives go dormant in the summer. There is (supposedly if the weatherperson is correct) a big rain storm coming next week. I have some more wildflower seeds to plant before the rain.

Here is how it looked in the spring of 2019.

Wild Flower Meadow, Fort Bragg CA

Wild Flower and Pollinator Garden June 2019

This is the newly planted area, I have high hopes once we get to spring. I’ve put in a variety of colorful perennials that should have a long bloom period.

New plantings October 2021

The pineapple sage is a welcome nectar source for the hummingbirds. We have had swarms of them all spring and summer but now only the native year-round Annas remain.

Pineapple sage

There is still a little color in the garden.

The native bumblebees were late to show up, and seem to have abandoned us early this year.

Native Bumblebee on Scabiosa

I have seen and heard a dozen or more flocks of Canadian geese flying south. It makes me wonder if we are in for a cold and wet winter. Fingers crossed.

Shanna, Casey and Quinn wish you adieu.

Shanna, Casey and Quinn

Shanna, Casey and Quinn

My constant companions in the garden.

 

In My Garden – September 2021

In My Garden – September 2021

It’s officially the fall season and I can feel the difference in the air. It’s crisper and mornings are cool, I smelled woodsmoke from fireplaces on the air the other day. Many folks still heat their homes with wood around here. And the first v’s of Canadian geese flew overhead this afternoon. And even better, it rained last Saturday! We got just over an inch. It was such joy hearing it on the roof. Fingers crossed that it’s a rainy winter, we sorely need the water.

The vegetable garden is prolific. I finally have tomatoes as well as zucchini, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, arugula, kale and chard. Even the broccoli and cauliflower are starting to head up.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

The pollinator garden is looking the worse for no summer water. Hopefully it will come back in the spring once we have a little rain.

Pollinator Garden In September

Pollinator Garden In September

I cut back the perennials this month, and will do a little reseeding in late October.

In the flower beds, I’ve done a little replanting in two spots where it looked bare, plants were not thriving. The baskets are to deter digging by my favorite puppy. The new soft, enhanced and enriched soil was too attractive to her. I came out the morning after I planted the bed to find deep holes and plants tossed everywhere. Luckily they hadn’t been damaged too much, I had found the disaster early enough to replant without too many fatalities.

 

Shanna's handiwork

Shanna’s handiwork in another part of the garden, she’s digging gopher tunnels. This time, thankfully, in our mostly dead front lawn. A victim of no summer watering.

The rest of the garden is ‘getting by’ but looking a bit sad. This is not the best time of year for gardens in California.

More and more I am becoming a fan of succulents which don’t require much water or even attention.

Shanna 5 months

Shanna at 5 months finds boxes endlessly entertaining as Quinn looks on

Shanna at 5 months finds boxes endlessly entertaining as Quinn looks on

Shanna 5 months

Shanna – don’t let that angelic look fool you.

The dogs keep me company and entertained in the garden.

I will end with this picture of an amazing zucchini flower that looks like an alien.

zucchini flower

zucchini flower

Aren’t plants wonderful?!

Happy gardening everyone, I hope you are enjoying the change of seasons.

In My Garden – August 2021

In My Garden – August 2021

Okay, so it’s almost September and I am very late in getting this out to everyone. Who knew a puppy would require so much of my attention! She is a delight but also taking up any spare time that would have been devoted to writing about my current gardening activities. I  am still out there with my plants, just not spending the time writing about it.

Casey, puppy Shanna, and Quinn

Casey, puppy Shanna, and Quinn

 

Quinn and Shanna

Quinn and Shanna – pals

The garden has been flourishing despite cutbacks in my watering activities. Some plants actually seem to like less water, while others (the majority) are looking decidedly dejected.

I have been harvesting bush beans for several weeks now. Last year I planted a second crop in August, they didn’t produce any beans. This year I started the second crop earlier and, fingers crossed, there will be a second harvest before the cool weather of late fall shuts them down. I did spot some flowers this afternoon.

The zucchini plants were starting to get powdery mildew.  I gave them a harsh pruning (removing any leaves with mildew), a spray of neem oil and some organic fertilizer. Here they are mid prune. They are looking better and I will hopefully be able to continue the harvest for another month or so.

Zucchini

Zucchini – I was in the midst of the haircut and you can see the mildewed leaves

The mildew is a side effect of our typically foggy July and August. I can’t complain too much because the summers are also as much as 50 degrees F cooler here on the coast compared to inland temperatures.

Zucchini is one of my favorite summer vegetables for the grill.

Grilled Zucchini

Grilled zucchini and summer squash

It only needs a bit of olive oil and coarse salt. We eat it “plain”, with pesto, in toasted sandwiches, or chopped into a salad with tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese. Picked an hour before cooking it’s an entirely different vegetable than that you get at the store.

The broccoli and cauliflower plants are getting big but no signs of heading up yet. The netting is to keep the birds out.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and Cauliflower

And there is almost always lettuce. That’s kale in the background left, arugula on the back right.

Lettuce

Lettuce

In my garden I have dahlias. They have been late, not as prolific with blooms, and a bit shorter in stature than the last couple of years. This could be because of our cooler and dryer weather, also because I am being stingy with the water. The flowers are still lovely, just not as many.

Dahlias

Dahlias

This plant is Daucus carota ‘Dara’, it’s a variety of Queen Anne’s lace or carrot flower. The flowers start out as a deep mahogany red, then fade to a lighter pink. In my garden it stands about 3 feet high. This is the first year I’ve grown it and I love its lacy appearance. Hopefully it will self seed itself for future plants. It’s very pretty in flower arrangements.

Daucus carota ‘Dara’

Another plant that is a butterfly magnet is this one, Trachelium caeruleum “Perennial Blue Lace Flower”. I planted it three years ago and it is really taking off this year.

Blue Lace Flower

It will die back in early winter when I will cut it almost to the ground. I love the billowy feel to it and butterflies are drawn to the nectar.

August Sweet PeansMuch to my surprise the sweet peas are still going strong after a late start. My grandmother always grew them along the side fence of her garden in England, their scent reminds me of wonderful summers spent with her. I don’t remember ever harvesting them this late, I think it’s a function of the very cool summer we’ve had so far.

I’ve ordered some plants to redo this area of the garden. Looks sad and somewhat barren doesn’t it? I have waited until closer to our rainy season but the plants will be arriving towards the end of next month. Fingers crossed we will get some rain in October.

I was inspired by a story I read about Kew Gardens in the U.K. It seems that they re-dig, re-vitalize the soil, and re-plant some beds each spring. I plan to do the same here (although in the fall), replanting many of the plants that don’t seem to be thriving. There are self sown columbines, some geums, yarrow, salvias, and tidy tips. But, they all look stunted. Stay tuned for next months update.

The weather is warming. We generally see rising temperatures in September and October, our Indian summer. I hope to be able to take advantage of our outdoor dining area without the space heaters.

Thankfully the smoke hasn’t been too bad here on the coast.

Al fresco dining

Al fresco dining

Here is Shanna with her favorite garden toy, an old mop she stole from the garage when my back was turned. She runs around the garden with it as if she was Harry Potter at a quidditch match.

Shanna and the mop

Shanna and the mop

I am calling this the August In My Garden even though there are only 2 days left in the month.

Happy gardening everyone; stay well and get vaccinated.