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 – December 2019

In My Garden – December 2019

The rain is here at last, long awaited and very welcome. In fact it has been difficult to find a nice day to take some pictures. I’m happy to take a break from the necessity of watering. This will be a brief post as there hasn’t been much going on and plant growth has slowed or stopped altogether. We don’t get a lot of frosty days and snow is almost unknown so plants just go dormant.

The work this month has been to prune back the roses and other perennials, and seed sweet peas for next spring. Now is the time to put seeds in the ground so they can develop strong root systems by May and June.

Last month I also seeded snap/snow peas, two varieties. One is a wavy purple podded strain and the other green, they should be beautiful intertwined on the trellis. They just started coming up in the last week. I ordered the seeds from ROW, they are a trial experimental snow pea mix.

Snap Peas

Snap Peas

Baby kale and purple mizuma are a couple of inches tall.

baby kale and purple mizuma December 2019

Baby Kale and Purple Mizuma December 2019

The winter greens will grow slowly in the cooler temperatures but I should have greens for salads and stir fries by next month.

Fort Bragg Vegetable Garden December 2019

Fort Bragg raised bed garden December 2019

There are only a few flowers still blooming, with the exception of the cupheas.

You can see why they call this variety candy corn. The hummingbirds like it; which is good since the rain has knocked off the flowers of most of their favorite plants.

Here’s a quick look around the other flower beds.

Newly planted perennials

Another bed with another cuphea, this time pink and lavender

More established bed #2

The potted lemon tree continues to product, although the lemons are smaller than normal. I pruned it back and trimmed some of the lemons off the tree in hopes they would grow in size. Maybe I see a little difference but not much.

Potted Meyer Lemon

The big surprise is the strawberry plant growing in the pot. I know no idea where it came from, most likely the birds.

Strawberries in the lemon tree container

So far there are no strawberries but the plant is very healthy. Our cat likes to nibble on the leaves.

And that’s all right now. Have a wonderful holiday everyone.

2019 Christmas Tree

2019 Christmas Tree

 

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).

 

 

In the Garden – December 2018

In the Garden – December 2018

You might think that here in the Northern hemisphere not much is happening in December. Not so, it’s a very happening place. Our northern California Mediterranean climate means many plants and shrubs are still blooming, and spring blooming plants are busy putting down roots with the winter rains. FINALLY! The garden beds at the back of the house have welcomed the addition of a lot of new plants (plus compost). The new annuals and perennials won’t flower until the spring, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. The lovely annual baby blue eyes, and short-lived perennial California poppies have already tripled in size. They will self seed (in fact there are a lot of seedlings from last year popping up) for this and next spring. It will be a lush planting come mid-spring.

This is what the back garden bed looked like the beginning of this month:

View to the back of the house

It doesn’t look that different a month later. There are a few more small plants, that’s all.

My wildflower meadow has progressed, you can see the new seedlings coming up from recent rain showers.

 

I worry that I seeded the area too densely; this was my first experiment with a wildflower meadow and pollinator garden. There are some transplanted perennials, a salvia, a few lavender plants, and a montilija poppy (also called a fried egg poppy), plus some plants that didn’t do as well in the back garden bed. This will be the third attempt with the montilija, they are very hardy as long as they like where they are situated. But if it isn’t to their satisfaction, forget it. This is a new site with really excellent drainage, we will see.The rest is from mixed wildflower seeds, over 50 different types which are specifically designed for the Pacific NW. I have also added some bunch grass seeds for the birds.

My goal of attracting and keeping hummingbirds in the garden during the winter has been a success. They are aggressively protecting their territory, visiting the feeders and, even more importantly, the plants. Feeders do not provide all the nutrients they need through the winter. None of the following plants (considered hummingbird plants) were planted in the garden until about March of this year.

Hummingbird at a feeder

The hummingbird plants currently blooming in the garden are of many varieties…salvias, sages, abutilon, nasturtiums, and cuphea. All of them have tubular flower shapes that attract hummingbirds. Most of the plants are still fairly small, but the variety is large. They will get much bigger and fill in the bed.

That’s the quick update for December. Oh…I almost forgot. I have 3 additional raised beds added to the existing 2. I planted 3 artichoke plants in the new beds; as well as seeded more lettuce, radishes and kale. According to Golden Gate Gardening by Pam Pierce (a gardening bible for bay area gardeners), it is iffy that the radishes and kale will grow this month. But the weather is weird and, who knows, it has been a lot milder in recent years.

We are well on our way to being more self sufficient. We have had our first salads, a mixture of different mesclun seed mixes, arugula, and baby mustard leaves. The greens were picked only an  hour before we ate them. They almost doesn’t need any dressing.

 

The lettuce mix is so wonderful compared to the grocery stores, much more tender and delicious.

The baskets are to keep off the birds while the plants are small. So far I haven’t noticed a problem but I experienced a lot of plant loss in Oakland due to birds and squirrels. There are too many predators in Fort Bragg, they keep the squirrel population very low.

 

 

In the Garden – June 2018

In the Garden – June 2018

I don’t even know where to start this month, so much happened during the month of May. Biggest, our fence was finished! The dogs love being able to safely roam around the property. I think dogs are happiest when they know their territory. We found that our normally well behaved (as much as an Aussie can be anyway) dogs heard the “call of the wild” when up at the Fort Bragg house. We had to keep them on leash when outside to prevent them from chasing the ducks in our neighbors pond, chasing the deer that wandered across the meadow, chasing the wild turkeys that raided the bird feeders, chasing the one lonely squirrel who lives in the pine grove…you get the message. They were completely out of control and sometimes disappeared long enough for us to worry. But now they are calm and know their place. The fence is 7 feet and will keep out the deer and neighboring dogs, I’m not sure about the wild turkeys and other critters. It probably won’t keep out a mountain lion or a bear, but maybe it will convince them to go somewhere slightly easier to get into.

IMG_7525

New Front Gate – Fort Bragg

There are dangers in letting them roam though. A game of chase ran through one of my island beds, trampling the plants. I have had to cut some of the poppies back, but it will bring in the sun to some of the later blooming summer flowers. The dogs will learn where they aren’t supposed to run (unless there is a squirrel in the yard…then all bets are off).

 

The other big news is the beginning of my new vegetable garden. I was waiting until the fence was complete before putting in the first plants. I would have been very sad to come out one morning and to find that a herd of deer had destroyed all the plants. So far the plants are in half wine barrels (available in abundance here in the Mendocino wine country) and large pots. But it is the start. Eventually I will put in raised beds. Meanwhile I don’t have to worry about gophers.

My friend, who knows the area and plants that will flourish in this climate, gifted me 3 tomato plants and 1 squash. I found 2 more squash plants at the nursery. These are the varieties I planted.

 Bloody Butcher

A sensational and very popular, very early producing tomato variety. A good choice for a tomato as you wait for later varieties to harvest. Our organic tomato seeds produce indeterminate, vigorous, potato-leaf plants that yield copious amounts of 2″, 4 oz, fruits that are deep-red color, inside and out. Five to nine fruits per cluster with a rich heirloom tomato flavor. Plant produces well until frost. A good tomato variety for cooler growing regions since fruits ripen quickly. A good canning tomato.

Days: 54

Size: Indeterminate

Season: Early Season

Nyagous

A rare Russian heirloom “cluster tomato”.  Regular leaf plant producing beautiful, smooth, 6oz, round “black” tomatoes that are dark mahogany with dark grey-green shoulders.  Nyagous is a wonderfully firm and blemish-free tomato with lots of sweet, complex fruit flavors and a clean acidic finish.  Up to 6 fruits per cluster.  A good market variety that has become a favorite of the Russian varieties.  Resistant to cracking.

Days:  76

Size: Indeterminate

Color: Purple-black

Season: Mid-Season

Yellow Bosnian

Old heirloom tomato from Yugoslavia. Seeds were sent from her friend Aleksandra Wiz in Zagreb Crotia. A shorter, regular leaf, indeterminate that produces a very heavy yield of 10 oz., slightly-flattened, yellow, oblate beefsteak tomatoes with deliciously rich, well-balanced. slightly sweet flavors. RARE

Days: 73

Size: Inderminate

Color: Yellow

Season: Mid-Season

Astia Zucchini

Zucchini Astia

Astia is a well-bred French bush zucchini variety, developed especially for container growing and planting in small space gardens. These non rambling, compact squash vines are also highly ornamental with big silvery-green, deeply indented leaves. Early bearing and productive, Astia bears abundant zucchini near the base of the plant where they are easy to harvest. These uniformly smooth, lustrous, glossy-green zucchini have excellent flavor and are delicious whether roasted, sautéed, steamed or baked.

Plus I added two additional summer squash varieties, Black Beauty bush type and a Costata Romanesco, one of my favorites from Oakland. I don’t know if the Costata will flourish in a large container much less the cooler climate here.

Small summer squash, picked right off the plant and grilled, are a BBQ treat.

Vegetables in the Garden

This section of the garden gets quite a bit of sun, certainly more than my tiny side yard did in Oakland. There is good potential.

Finally, the bottlebrush bush is blooming! Why is this important? Because the hummingbirds have returned with the blooms. I see and hear them buzzing around the flowers as the nectar is a favorite. The rest of the garden has been planted with lots of other flowers which are supposed to attract them, but so far only the Salvias are blooming. It hasn’t been enough to keep them around.

Bottlebrush shrub

I understand that in the “old days” the flowers were actually used as a bottle brush. The seeds are also quite rough and I can imagine would give things a good scouring.

That’s all the big news from up here on the California Coast. I hope you are all enjoying your gardens, be they big or small.