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 – March 2021

In My Garden – March 2021

In My Garden I have hummingbirds. They are voracious at the feeder which hangs just outside the dining area window. From the kitchen I watch the nectar disappear seemingly overnight. In past years, the garden has been populated exclusively by Allen hummingbirds. They would disappear in early January, migrating further south, to appear again in late March. Sometime last summer the Annas arrived, they are year-round residents here on the coast. All summer and fall there were fierce battles between the two species both at the feeder and near their favorite flowers. I’d hear an orchestra of their calls whenever I worked in the garden, and my head was often buzzed. Things are currently much quieter right now. I expect their explosive fighting to resume soon as the more aggressive Allens return to fight for their territory and claim supremacy at the bottle brush shrub they all seem to love.

In my garden I see the very first signs of spring. It’s not only the shy green shoots emerging from the base of what looks like a dead stick, but also something about the light that’s different. It’s the clarity and piercing quality of the sunlight, like the shock you get when emerging from a long grey tunnel. You may not have even realized you were in the dark until the brightness hits your eyes. The plants must feel like that as well, a sudden awakening after a long sleep, emerging into new light. Part of the joy of the early spring garden is the search for those signs of new life, so different from the sometimes exhausting exuberance of summer.

The main flower beds still look a little bare except for one of the winter flowering salvias with its bright red blooms. This one is Salvia gesneriflora ‘Mole Poblano’. 

The hummingbirds have already discovered it.

Back flower beds

Back flower beds as seen from the patio off the master bedroom

In the vegetable garden I’ve planted lettuce from 6-pack starts. You’ll see chives, chard and spinach in this bed as well. I will start lettuce from seed in another few weeks.

lettuce

lettuce and chard

The lawn (if you can call it that since it is dominated by dandelions) is green up. Although the weather is still cool, the longer daylight hours are stimulating everything into sudden growth.

The daffodils are flowering, their sunny yellow faces welcome sights in the rain. And the freesias are just about to bloom.

Daffodils

Daffodils

Freesias

Freesias

Later this month I will be putting out a layer of compost over the new shoots to support their rapid growth. It’s still a little cold and our last frost free date isn’t until next month so I want to wait as long as possible.

In my garden, or rather on my feet, I have new gardening clogs reflecting the colors of a spring meadow. The clogs brighten my mornings as I wander through the garden in my bathrobe, a cup of tea in hand, to check for new growth and any overnight damage by marauding insects or slugs. I find these solitary early morning check-ins one of the great joys of having a garden.

Gardening clogs

Gardening clogs

 

 

 

 

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 – November 2020

In My Garden – November 2020

My garden has been my refuge these past few months, weeks and days. We are now past one election hurdle; I suspect there are many more to come.

November is the month for putting the garden to bed, as I wish we could with all the politics swirling around right now. I have been pruning, cutting back perennials, pulling out spent fall annuals, and planting native wildflowers for spring. We’ve had our first winter rain, although slight. There is a much larger storm system on its way later this week and we had our first frost last night. I’m getting the garden ready for a lengthy well deserved rest.

That’s not true in the vegetable garden though. I will hopefully get my snap pea seeds before the rain, the bed is ready for the 30 inch tendrils of a shorter variety. Now is the time for planting. Lettuce, arugula, carrots, sprouting broccoli, chard, and cabbage are all getting a good start. They love the cooler weather.

Ready for peas

Ready for peas

This year I will cover the new seeds with bird netting. The sparrows and junkos got most of them last yer.

Sprouting Broccoli and Chard

Sprouting Broccoli and Chard

 

Young Cabbage Plants

Young Cabbage Plants under shade cloth to protect from cabbage worms

 

Lettuce, Arugula, and Carrots

Lettuce, Arugula, radishes, and Carrots covered in bird netting

Here are a few pictures of the flower beds, facing the back of the house from left to right. The blue kiddie pool is for the dogs, they like to cool off in the water after a strenuous game of ball or frisbee or tag.

There is always something to do even if it is only filling the bird feeders. For that I am thankful.

Because of the heat lamps we have been able to hold a few appropriately distanced dinner parties outside, just off the kitchen deck. Once the rains start it will be more difficult. We have a rain flap over part of the deck but it is only large enough for four to be safely distant from each other, and it won’t work if there is any wind.

Ready for dinner

Ready for dinner

In the pollinator garden most of the plants have been sheared back. Amazingly that one rain shower (it was only .25 inch) has resulted in seeds sprouting.

And here, just for recording purposes, is our sad front yard. It’s mostly sand and weeds, our leach field for the septic system, and a playground for the dogs. I have purchased some seeds to improve the soil and will be working on it this week before the rain on Thursday. So here is the sad ‘before’:

Stay safe everyone, stay well, be kind to each other. I think we all need some tenderness right now.

I love your comments and suggestions. Thank you so much for visiting with me in my garden in Fort Bragg, California on the coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – August 2020

In My Garden – August 2020

Doesn’t it always seem to be true that the heaviest harvest comes in while the gardener is somewhere else? At least it seemed that way to me earlier this month. I was away for a week and asked the assistant gardener to pick the green beans and zucchini when they were ready. He is very reliable and harvested about 10 pounds of fresh beans, 2 pounds of snap peas, and way too many zucchini to count.

Fresh beans

Fresh beans

Snap and Snow Peas

Snap and Snow Peas

Zucchini

Zucchini

There is always one zucchini that’s forgotten.

This one was missed

Forgotten Zucchini – now a baseball bat

Growing under plastic and cloth row covers has turned out to be particularly successful.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

I even have tomatoes this year! It took covering the bed in plastic and putting out traps for the voles who were eating them before they had a chance to ripen.

Home Grown Tomatoes

Home Grown Tomatoes

We pulled out the peas and beans from their raised beds and prepared them for fall planting. I have read (not confirmed) that it is not too late to plant another round of zucchini and beans up here on the coast, so one new bed was planted with 3 squash plants, a row of beans, and seeded with arugula on the far side. I hope the squash plants will shade them once they come up.

I will let you know if this experiment is successful. We still have a lot of warm weather going all the way into late October. Fingers crossed.

Vegetable bed with baby squash, beans and arugula

Vegetable bed with baby squash, beans and arugula

The bed that held the peas was unsurprisingly full of redwood tree roots which had to be dug out. We have a new method of preparing the beds once they are finished. We dig out all the redwood roots (saving as much soil as possible), then put two layers of industrial weed cloth on the bottom of the bed and cover it with cardboard before adding back the soil with amendments of compost and nutrients. It seems to delay the redwood roots, it also means the bed retains more water and doesn’t dry out as quickly.

Newly prepared planting bed

Newly prepared planting bed

The new one is for fall planting, lettuces and chard.

The flower garden is beginning to show signs of fall. The spring and early summer annuals have been allowed to go to seed and then pulled out. Grasses are beginning to dominate the beds.

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The pollinator garden is dominated by Black Eyed Susans, Shasta Daisys and Yarrow.

Pollinator Garden - August 2020

Pollinator Garden – August 2020

That’s a quick walk around my garden. What’s your own garden doing?

Be well and safe!