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 – May 2019

In My Garden – May 2019

Tony Avent, the owner of Plant Delights Nursery, once said “you don’t know a plant until you have killed it three times”. Gardeners require patience and perseverance, we learn equally by our mistakes and our successes. The best gardens are deeply personal, bringing to life a unique vision and aesthetic which will be specific to the climate and soil.

The last 12 months have been an education for me in the Fort Bragg garden. The gardening environment is completely different than my previous garden in Oakland. How you ask? Well let me count the ways…

1 The soil is acidic due to the numerous conifers (pines and redwoods) surrounding the property (Oakland soil was alkaline to neutral),

2) The soil is sandier due to the coastal dunes not far away (the Oakland garden used to be a creek bed and was heavy clay…I once threatened to make a pot from it). The upside is that it drains well if the rain is not too heavy.

3) The soil is much leaner and needs tons of compost to enrich it (clay soil is full of nutrients but needs lots of lightening…both need compost),

4) The climate here is wetter in the winter; many of my fall planted ‘drought resistant plants’ succumbed to drowning.

5) The climate is much cooler in the summer, fog and cool evenings are common in mid-summer.

And lastly…

6) the planting beds have root competition due to the many Redwood trees surrounding my sunny meadow.

Redwoods have an extensive root system, the tiny roots can stretch as much as 100 feet from each tree but are only about 2 feet deep. Redwoods don’t have a tap root. That extensive root system, which connects with other trees surrounding them, is what holds them upright. And, those roots are invasive, searching out water and nutrients. I love the redwoods but have found I occasionally need to dig out their roots from my planting beds.

The plants and shrubs are starting to take off and the planting beds are a riot of color. I am particularly found of a Geum called totally tangerine. It grows into a green mound about 3 feet by 3 feet with branching flower stems of tangerine colored flowers on stalks that wave in any breeze. They seem to love the growing conditions here and are thriving. The orange color is particularly attractive combined with red and orange poppies and the wildflower baby blue eyes.

Geum Totally Tangerine

The pollinator wildflower garden is finally taking off. I hear lots of buzzing when I walk near it and the butterflies seem to have discovered it.

Pollinator Meadow May 2019

American Lady Butterfly

We finished adding the final two raised beds to the vegetable garden. This month I harvested the last of the kale (now blanched and in the freezer) and planted my first warm season veggies. They include bush beans, red runner pole beans, summer squash, basil, and summer lettuce. I warned my favorite builder that we may need to add a hoop house to one of the beds to give the zucchini more warmth.

Last year I planted tomatoes and cucumbers but our summer was too cool and foggy for them. The few that did grow were pecked by the ravens before they ripened. I’m not even going to try this year. I have more hope for the summer squash…fingers crossed, hence the hoop house.

My mini-farm of 5 raised beds

The runner beans are planted in a half wine barrel. In our temperate climate they sometimes act as perennials and will come back from the roots. They were a favorite of my grandfather and did come back for him each year in the U.K. They also tolerate cooler weather, which is a blessing.

Both the sweet pea flowers and the edible peas are doing well. I harvested the first peas this past weekend to make a pea and asparagus salad.

Pea, Asparagus and Cauliflower Salad with Mint and Almonds

The sweet pea flowers are very aromatic, so far only the pink ones are blooming. They are one of my favorite flowers and always remind me of my grandmother in England. She had a long row of them at the side of her garden.

Pink Sweet Peas

Now to end with a quick look at the two main garden beds off the back of the house.

The rhododendrons are starting to bloom, a little later this year than last.

And here is a look at the garden last year in May, 2018.

Garden chores for this month include side dressing with compost and weeding.

I’ve planted lettuce, arugula, cilantro, basil, summer squash, runner beans and bush beans from seed.

In My Garden – April 2019

In My Garden – April 2019

Spring is finally here and the rain continues, at least the weather has warmed somewhat with highs in the 50’s. But the skies are mostly grey and the garden seems to be a bit behind where it was last year. The daffodils have bloomed, and continue to bloom, in waves depending on the variety.

The lily of the valley bushes are putting out red and orange new growth.

Lily of the Valley Bush

These bushes make a lovely backdrop for the first rhododendron to bloom, a beautiful yellow one of shorter stature. This bush was on the south/west side of the house before we added the addition and didn’t look happy with the sun and heat. It is thriving in its new, shadier, home in the back of the yard.

Yellow Rhododendron

The azaleas are in full bloom.

And a lime colored fuchsia that was planted several years ago when we first purchased the house finally seems to be taking off. It’s especially lovely against the dark redwood of the deck.

Lime leaved fuchsia

Compared to last year, the bearded irises along the driveway have not shown the same growth. But it has been rainier and colder this year. I will fertilize them this month, as suggested on line, with a low nitrogen fertilizer.

Much to my surprise, the tulips (not supposed to be cold enough for them here) have come back this year and multiplied. They are planted in a half barrel with a butterfly bush.

The sweet flowering peas I planted last fall have definitely taken off with the warming weather, although there are no flower buds yet. It will still be a month or more before I can harvest armloads of the wonderful scented flowers.

The half barrel of bush snap peas has just started to flower. I’ve been harvesting shoots of these edible peas for salads as well.

You can see both of them at the back of the vegetable garden.

Here’s a quick photo of the meadow, you can clearly see the chaos…which was my intention. This will be a pollinator garden once it starts flowering.

Wildflower and pollinator garden

The vegetable garden in raised beds continues to flourish. I’m harvesting lots of greens for salads and struggling to keep up with the kale.

Vegetable raised beds

I have four new bare root roses, planted in half barrels for safety and protection from gophers. Although we keep up with them by trapping, overlooking one for several days would be disastrous to the rose bush. The newly planted roses are shades of pink, apricot and orange.

Bare Root Rose Bushes

I thought you might also like a quick look at the wild part of the garden, of which there are acres.

A friend requested that I add a few comments each month on what I have planted or chores performed. Keep in mind that I am gardening in zone 9b and your own planting times may be different.

Chores:

  • fertilize iris bed with low nitrogen fertilizer
  • cut back salvias and sages to encourage bushiness now that our last frost date has passed
  • fertilize citrus trees
  • add compost around plants
  • weed, weed, weed

April planting:

  • vegetables – from seed: lettuce, arugula, beets, radishes, carrots
  • 4 bare root roses for half wine barrel containers
  • 5 new dahlia bulbs
  • small annuals such as baby blue eyes and poppies
  • 2 orange rhododendrons
  • pink lily of the valley bush
  • 5 white rock roses

New plants coming later this month:

And lastly, a look at the garden this time last year April 2018 In the Garden. Just click on the title to see the older post. The deer fence was’t finished until mid-May of last year. The garden has changed a lot since then, as I haven’t had to worry about planting exclusively deer and rabbit resistant plants (there are very few deer proof plants).