May 2021 – In My Garden

May 2021 – In My Garden

As I said last month, spring is where it’s at in Northern California. Everything is blooming after the winter rains, trying to attract pollinators and set their seeds before the dryness of summer puts an end to things. I do water a portion of the garden through the summer, but this year it will be much less. Our lawns turn brown and dry, being without any summer water. Being summer dormant they will return to green come late fall. Our experiment with barley seeds didn’t turn out very well, the usual long winter rainy season never really happened. The new sprouts dried before they really had a chance. It has been the second driest winter in a century. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, now we add the possibility of a dry well and a bad fire season.

But, in the meantime, the garden is glorious. Pink and blue columbines are almost 3 feet tall, the red and orange geums are in full bloom, salvias are putting out red and blue stalks of flower that attract hummingbirds, and the buzz of native bumblebees fill the air. It was a dry but cold winter, the bumblebees have been late making their appearance.

Grab a cup of tea or coffee (or a cool glass of rose) and let us wander through the garden. Starting with the veggies, my friend Linda provided me with some healthy starts of tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.

Tomato, zucchini and cucumber starts

Tomato, zucchini and cucumber starts

I’ve planted the tomatoes in the raised beds under plastic to keep them warm.

Lettuce is still abundant, this soft head with a bronze blush is one of my favorites.

Lettuce

Lettuce

 

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

These apricot nasturtiums have found the way into one of the larger pots, and then they would their way into some botanical gin and tonics. Just the thing for celebrating the first BBQ of the season.

Botanical Gin and Tonic

Botanical Gin and Tonic

We are mulching the garden with a heavy layer of chips from trees we had taken out a couple of years ago. I’m hoping it will cut down of the water required in the flower garden.

The rhododendrons, lily of the valley bushes, and azaleas are blooming.

There are native wildflowers.

And the red salvias are still blooming like crazy, drawing lots of hummingbirds to the garden.

Back Flower bed

Back Flower bed

Columbines…these were originally seeded from my first packet of wildflowers.

And of course there are poppies.

 

Thanks for joining me today. I’d love to hear from you.

In My Garden – February 2021

In My Garden – February 2021

Well, it is still February although admittedly near the end. My In My Garden – March 2021 post will not be too far behind. Spring is finally just starting to show its face around here. It has been an unusually cold winter for these parts, although not nearly as cold as those poor souls in the southeastern part of the U.S. Still, it has delayed the emergence of spring by a few weeks.

I spent the early part of February packing and moving into our second home in Oakland (see the March version of In My Kitchen, which is yet to be posted). So I didn’t spend much time in my Fort Bragg garden. In Oakland, which is over 3 hours south of here, spring has definitely sprung. The tulip magnolias are blooming and folks are walking around in the shirt sleeves. Not so here, we are still bundled up.

There are, however, some first signs of spring.

The pollinator garden has early daffodils.

Pollinator Garden - Feb. 2021

Pollinator Garden – Feb. 2021

Following is a picture of the front garden. Remember from an earlier post we decided to seed the front garden with barley seeds. The tip came from what they used on the dunes in San Francisco when they created Golden Gate Park. Our soil in the front is mostly sand and of very poor quality. Anyway, the barley has quite successfully seeded itself. We’ll have to see what happens later in the season.

Front Garden - Feb. 2021

Front Garden – Feb. 2021
Barley is emerging

In the vegetable garden the cabbages are heading up and the baby kale looks very healthy.

Cabbage heading up

Cabbage heading up

Baby kale

Baby kale

I was going to compare this year’s garden to the same time last year but, it seems I never got around to writing one in February of 2020. Who knew at that time that we were on the brink of a major pandemic.

Be well everyone, get your vaccine when it is available, practice masking and social distancing. Things are looking brighter but it is not over yet. We need to look after each other.

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.