In My Garden – June 2020

In My Garden – June 2020

I want to open with a quote:

“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” Robin Wall Kimmerer

You are indeed a lucky person if you have a garden right now. I know it has saved me.

I have had difficulty writing my IMG post this month. I spend almost every day out in the garden…weeding, pruning, harvesting, pulling out spent annuals, watering, and planting new summer and fall plants in both the vegetable garden and flower beds. How can I possibly tie it down to how it looks in one day when it is constantly changing? And it isn’t changing slowly either, I notice new things every day. The colors, scents, and shapes are never the same one day to the next. This blog post tries to tie it down but I think I need a movie to give a true picture.

But now in mid-June it is time. So here is a snapshot of what has developed in the last month.

Quinn is our big hunter of gophers and moles.

Quinn

Who me?

She frequently does more damage than good, especially with moles, digging deeply along their tunnels. It’s not so bad when she finds a tunnel in the forest. Other than returning covered in redwood needles, she can do little to hurt the deep piles of duff under the trees. However, every once in a while she finds them in the middle of the flower garden before we notice. Such was the case here…

It took us two weeks to catch the thing, knowing she would just dig it up again if we didn’t get it.

Casey, by contrast, can’t be bothered.

Casey

Just let me be a couch potato

The vegetable garden has changed a lot since we prepared the beds. There are three varieties of bush beans planted in this one.

Under the cover of plastic, zucchini is flourishing and we are harvesting our first crop.

Summer Squash

Zucchini

I cover them in the evening and uncover them once the sun hits the beds in the morning.

I also have some cucumbers and tomatoes growing under one of the mini greenhouses provided by the plastic covering. They seem to be doing well so far and I will let you know if I actually get a crop this year, it will be a first.

I have both sweet pea flowers and edible snap/snow peas in this bed.

Peas

Flowering and edible peas

The first dahlia to bloom.

Dahlias

Dahlias

And here are some shots of the flower garden.

June is truly the most beautiful month in the garden. Northern California is at it’s most colorful in spring.

And here is the pollinator garden. With the exception of a few salvia’s and day lilies, only last year’s wildflowers have reseeded it. The colors and flowers in bloom change weekly. It is full of the buzz of bees, fluttering butterflies, and the calls of small birds feasting on dropped seed heads.

 

Now the weather has warmed we are enjoying being outside, appropriately socially distanced with close friends. The back deck is a perfect place.

Set up for a socially distanced glass of wine

Back deck set up for an appropriately distanced glass of wine with friends – Casey and Quinn join us

The hummingbirds feeding in the bottlebrush tree behind the deck entertain us with their arguments and fights over territory.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into my garden. Questions and comments are welcome.

And it you travel to the coast know that the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are now open. Make sure you make an appointment, they are well worth a visit.

In My Garden – May 2020

In My Garden – May 2020

May has to be the best and most beautiful Northern California gardening month. Everything is starting to bloom, there is color everywhere. It’s lovely to sit in the evening with a glass of wine and soak in the view of the back garden.

I find my mood changes depending on the weather and if the sun is shining. Blue skies bring optimism and quiet joy, grey ones bring lethargy and sadness. The exuberance of the spring garden ignores all those effervescent and shifting moods. The flowers bloom without knowledge of the crisis in the world. The bright colors make it seem aflame, a riot of orange poppies, tangerine geum, marmalade heuchera, and yellow lupines.

I can sit quietly, listening to the buzz of bees and the songs of sparrows. In the distance I hear the sounds of breaking surf on the beach. I let the peace of the garden wash over me, a private timeless world…no schedules, no appointments. The world is on pause and I sit in the middle, quiet and serene for the moment.

Exuberance

Exuberance of colors and textures

The bees are especially active in the pollinator garden. This is the second year and survival of the fittest is definitely taking place.

Pollinator Garden May 2019

Pollinator Meadow May 2019

Last year we had a lot more rain.

The bearded irises and Spanish lavender plants edging the driveway are in bloom.

Spanish lavender and Bearded Iris

Spanish lavender and Bearded Iris

In the vegetable garden I have planted summer squash, cucumbers, winter squash, basil and determinate tomatoes this month. My husband (and partner in any hardscaping project) helped construct supports to make mini hoop houses. The microclimate of the property has not been kind to tomatoes in the past and I hope, by warming the beds, I will have better luck.

Raised Bed Veggie Garden

Raised Bed Veggie Garden – May 2020

A peak under the plastic

A peak under the plastic – tomatoes, basil and summer squash

 

Last year’s pole beans are coming back, they are about an inch high. I will plant bush beans later this week in a newly prepared bed.

Ready for Bush Beans

Ready for Bush Beans

The snap peas and sweet pea flowers are finally taking off. It was a challenge to keep the sparrows from eating the new shoots. I finally unearthed some old netting from the depths of the garage and that has helped a lot.

Snap Peas and Sweet Pea Flowers

Snap Peas and Sweet Pea Flowers

I have company in the garden, if not helpers.

Quinn

Quinn – “Mom, I will just watch you working while I relax here in the sun”

 

Casey

Casey – “Sunny days are made for napping unless you see a squirrel.”

Be well everyone, be safe. And happy gardening.

In My Garden – April 2020

In My Garden – April 2020

The following two paragraphs are copied from Kitchen Garden Seeds. I’m on their email list and get messages fairly frequently. Perusing seed catalogs in print or online is a time honored winter and early spring tradition for most gardeners.

“Back in the 1940s in the midst of World War II, Americans across the country planted Victory Gardens to supply themselves and others with fresh food, which was a scarcity at the time. Victory Gardens were hugely successful, and a symbol of our country coming together toward a common goal of keeping ourselves healthy and proactive.
We’re now in the midst of another global crisis, and judging from what we’re hearing from our customers, gardening is yet again what we’re all gravitating toward for sustenance and comfort. As we all hunker down to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and the population in general, flattening the curve as best we can, we have the opportunity to get back to basics: spending quality time with family, cooking leisurely meals, engaging in meaningful conversations, and, of course, gardening. Growing our own food and flowers is incredibly therapeutic, with the added benefit of supplying our families with fresh food without stepping foot in a grocery store.”
Even if you only have room for a small patio garden, it can be very gratifying to pick some fresh herbs or a few cherry tomatoes for your dinner. This link will lead you to a post I wrote a few years ago with some ideas, Kitchen Basics to Grow in Pots.
We have been preparing the vegetable garden for early summer vegetables. Although I did have summer squash in the raised beds last year, it’s too cool for cucumbers or tomatoes. We’ve hope to remedy that by covering some of the raised beds with plastic to make mini-hoop houses.
I would love to grow peppers but it really is too cool for them here. I did run across an interesting article about them though and had a few minutes of ‘hot’ summer envy. Here is a link if you live in an area where you can grow them. The link is from a site called Happy DIY Home, they had some handy tips regarding home and garden.
Raised Beds

Raised Beds with Hoops for Plastic Covering

At the moment my raised are filled with lettuce, kale, and chard. Definitely winter produce, and because of the cold they are growing very slowly.

The sparrows were decimating the peas, they haven’t been able to get a start because of the foraging birds. I found some old netting in the garage and that seems to be giving them a helping hand. I won’t wait as long next year to wrap some netting around them.

Snap Peas with Netting

Snap Peas with Netting

We spent a day digging out redwood roots from one of the raised beds. This is a chore that has to be done once a year to each bed as the trees and their roots are very aggressive. There were some sore backs after the job was completed. It made me wish for that hot tub we keep meaning to purchase.

Raised Bed - roots removed

Raised Bed Minus Redwood Roots

I’ve started some seeds in seed trays.

New seeds

Seeds – lettuce, chard, kale, cilantro

So, what is happening in the flower beds this month? Spring is definitely here and the plants are starting to leaf out and bloom. The tulips and irises are in bloom, also the Geums. Salvia concolor has not been out of bloom since the start of winter, much to the delight of the yard’s hummingbirds. This variety of salvia seems to be doing better than most others of its kind in my garden. I planted several of them last fall with Alonsoa meridionalis “Apricot Mask Flower” and both have been in non-stop flower.
Salvia and Alonsoa

Salvia and Alonsoa

I am mesmerized by foliage combinations, especially welcome when not much is flowering. Here is one of my favorite combinations.

The tangerine color of the Geum flowers mirror the leaves of the Heuchera, both shown off by the dark foliage of the Anthriscus. All the Geums have just started blooming like crazy, they do very well here and I consider them one of the most successful plants in the garden. Everything has to be able to put up with the competition of the redwood roots.

The first rhododendron is in bloom, it’s a bushy yellow one. I think the variety is ‘Top Banana’ but I’m not sure.

Rhododendron 'Top Banana'

I think this is:Rhododendron ‘Top Banana’

And the first dahlia shoots are showing.

Dahlia

First Dahlia Emerging in the Spring

It will be another few weeks before most of the emerge. It’s a tricky time when the snails and slugs can ravage them.

Banana Slugs

Banana Slugs

Here are two pictures of the pollinator meadow, 2019 and 2020. Late last fall we mowed all the plants in and this year we will see how it changes. I’ll add side by side pictures each month for comparison.

If you would like to take a look at the garden last year at this time, you will find the link here. We had a lot more rain last winter season than this one. In fact almost twice as much as this year. I fear that, without a lot of early spring rain, we are headed into a drought.

And lastly, while I have been digging in the raised bed and putting in new plants, the dogs have been busy doing their own excavations. They have completely dug up a portion of the yard in search of a allusive gopher or mole.

Major Gopher Excavation

Major Gopher Excavation

Dogs digging

I know it’s here somewhere

There must be a whole colony from the looks of it.

Examining a Days Work

Examining a Days Work

Definitely a tunnel here.

Stay well everyone, stay safe. Let me know how your garden is doing. Right now I call it my therapy.

March 2020 – Garden Failures

March 2020 – Garden Failures

No one likes to admit failure; but I think it is educational to know that ‘*’ happens, especially in the garden. These posts are a record for me, my garden diary. Maybe reading it will give me pause before I purchase my 12th Salvia ‘Blue Note’. I love the look of it and want it to thrive. On its part, it doesn’t like my garden no matter how much I baby it. I am forever optimistic.

Every garden has its unique character and characteristics. This is my 3rd year gardening on our 7 acres in Fort Bragg, CA. I have logged a great many failures during that time. We have a deer fence around a couple of acres surrounding the house, I am lucky I don’t have to worry about grazing deer as they are a big problem here. (As an aside, the deer fence is new and I do have some ideas about plants that did well and were not eaten by deer. Just email me or comment on this post.) Our clearing is surrounded by tall conifers (heavily dominated by redwood trees). It does give us protection from the wind (the ocean is less than a mile away) but it also means we are cooler and shadier than areas more inland.

I thought I would give you a glimpse of my three years of extensive gardening in the cultivated part. I promise to post my successes as well. The property outside the fence is wild and we leave it that way, a stream runs through part of it and we treat it as wildlife refuge.

Visitor to the Wild Part

A midnight marauder – before the fence he was after the bird seed, now the bears come after our garbage on trash pickup day (thankfully outside the fence).

This is a list of plants that failed to thrive or just plain croaked soon after planting. Why? I am not really sure for many of them. The garden does have some unique features which make it difficult; competition by redwood roots, acid and depleted soil although it has been supplemented with enormous amounts of compost (several times a year), bone meal and other amendments. We are supposed to be in climate zone 9b but I am not sure that is completely accurate. We get a lot of winter rain (in most years) and it’s soggy weather. Summers are on the cooler side with summer fog. The soil is basically sandy and drains well, but is low in nutrients, maybe because it does drain well…the nutrients just leach out. And again, there are those redwood roots, it could be that root competition does them in.

Anyway, here is a partial list of my failures:

I admit that when I find a plant I love, I don’t give up on it. The above plants represent multiple failed attempts. Other master gardeners at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens have mentioned bad luck with Salvias, they think that Annie’s Annuals (an amazing nursery where I get many plants) may have wrong zones listed on some of their plants. I also think our gardening geography has some unique features.

What has been your experience? Have any of the plants listed done well in your garden? Any tips, especially on the Salvias?

Look for another post on those plants that have been successes, there are quite a few that have done well.

 

 

In My Garden – March 2020

In My Garden – March 2020

Where did you go February??? Gone…not a trace of it left (or a drop of rain during the entire month). Here we are in March already, spring. The Fort Bragg garden is about a month behind the gardens in the Bay Area, it’s cooler here and usually wetter. Except for the bulbs, plants aren’t exactly bursting into bloom yet. There isn’t a lot of change between my pictures from February and March. You need to look closely at the pictures below to see any change.

Yes, I did take some pictures but never got around to writing a post.

It’s encouraging and heartening (love that word) to see the beginnings of new growth. I am always somewhat fearful when plants die back in the winter, never being sure they will return in the spring. I prune with difficulty, knowing it is necessary for plant health and bushiness, but there is an element of doubt each time.

Rose

Rose, new growth

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage

With the roses I was comfortable and confident that they would come back, I wasn’t so sure about the pineapple sage. At the botanical gardens they don’t cut it back but my plants were getting leggy. I was prepared to purchase new plants if required, it’s a favorite of the hummingbirds, so I am very happy to see new growth sprouting from the base.

Mint and Tarragon

Mint and Tarragon

My culinary herbs, mint and tarragon, are returning. The mint I coral in a pot to keep it in control. The tarragon is also in a pot so I can keep track of it. I use them both in cooking, they are often difficult to find in the store.

the hellebores are blooming like crazy, they are actually winter blooming plants. Some of my favorites.

The first buds are on the poppies. I can’t remember what color these will be so it will be a surprise. They look very happy.

Poppy

Poppy

The new bed at the back of the house does show a big change between February and March, unlike the other beds. It’s full of early spring blooming perennials as well as as well as dahlias for fall bloom.

The flags alert me to places where I have planted dahlia tubers. They disappear over the winter and I forget where they are in my eagerness to plant something else in that spot. I’ve unfortunately never met a plant I didn’t want in the garden.

Chores in the garden consist of weeding, weeding and more weeding…and watering. There is hope for some rain the end of this week. Fingers crossed.