Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year! do a better job composting yard trimmings manage to keep an evergreen clematis alive keep the privets under control
...not to break the new pruner my brother gave me for Christmas that replaces the last one he gave me that I broke:( take more time to smell the basil (roses are overrated) grow and eat a Brandywine tomato

That ought to do it! I wish everyone a new year with lush plants, minimal garden pests (animal or vegetable type), and the peace and happiness that comes from time in the garden.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Originally uploaded by giardiniera53.
Front path minus lots of the redwood chips.


Originally uploaded by giardiniera53.
Side path...through the bushes.


Originally uploaded by giardiniera53.
Front path...being washed out from rain.

New Year's Projects

In Davis January is a good time to start making plans for garden projects and for beginning to gather supplies. We never really know if it will rain all month or if we will be blessed with some of those perfect days where the (hard clay) soil is soft from rain and therefore easily dug for paths or other projects. It is best to leave the planting beds alone...they're too wet to dig. But I have plans to redo my front path and I'm making plans to get the stone I need and when the right day arrives I'll be ready to go. Several years ago I looked around and all my front lawn had disappeared. I don't much like grass and I'm not good at growing it...somehow this led to my expanding the flower beds until they took over. In a way it was a relief to know that people could stop asking if I was eventually going to take out all the grass...I really didn't think I would or could...I thought that lawn was sort of "normal". Now I'm not sure if I think lawn is normal...but I really don't care since it's my yard and I'm not in this for normal...
Anyway! I did leave a path that I felt provided the open space I wanted...a wider path from the sidewalk to the house and a smaller one around the edge of the yard that I thought kids would like since the taller bushes provided some cover and made it seem like a secret path. I put stepping stones up the middle of both paths and attempted to plant green carpet (Herniaria) in the open areas which never did very well. Eventually I decided I didn't want the green there anyway so I mulched with mini redwood chips. This is the second winter that I've had to rake leaves off the path (there is a big ornamental pear in the middle of all this) and it just isn't working. The chips get raked up and while I try to pile it all up to compost it still leaves bare dirt which gets washed out when it rains. So the plan is to add more stepping stones to fill in more of the path...we'll see how that works!

After several days of rain and clouds the wind has come up and cleared the skies. Taking a break from cleaning up Christmas seemed like a good idea so I took a ramble through the yard to see what might be new. Under the heading of not-so-good are my ferns. I've been so happy with the way they have filled in the back fence an area that is under the privets and partly shady I've mostly had cranesbill, allysum and often annuals filling in between smaller shrubs. The ferns were 4 inch sword ferns and have spread well (which also means not in an invasive way!) The frost we had over the last few weeks browned a lot of the now I'll get to look at that until March or so when it will be safe to cut the dead parts and see what happens.

On to better things...the tulbaghia fragrans (related to society garlic, which I also like and have, but prettier and much earlier blooming) is starting to bloom. I'm always pleasantly surprised to see it blooming this time of year...a mid-winter reminder of spring to come.

And over near the zapped ferns the summer snowflakes are putting on good growth and the buds on the camellia are becoming quite plump. My Variegated Pink lemon is holding its own. The snails really enjoyed the leaves last year. Taking a hint from someone's blog (thank you whoever you are!) I got a copper scrub pad, pulled it apart and surrounded the trunk. It seems to be doing the trick keeping the little guys at bay for now. It is also the only citrus I have in the Meyer lemon and Bearss lime (mojito anyone??) are in pots and I've strung Christmas lights on trellises to help them withstand the dips below freezing. The Variegated Pink has come through so far just fine...keeping it watered when the temperature dips below freezing is probably also helping. Too bad Blogger won't let me upload the rotated photo!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like ...rain

Halloween is over and we know what that is time to begin the seasonal fun. No, I don't mean shopping and holiday Davis it is time to get serious about moving tender plants to a safe winter abode and replacing them with something (preferably bright and cheerful) to look at during the long, gray winter ahead. We may be part of California but we are not going to be basking in the sun for a while...the Central Valley is more of a fog/overcast zone for much of the winter. We had our first rain of the season on Thursday...almost an inch of rain in mostly one big afternoon cloudburst. It was actually a bit of a this time of year it gets difficult to keep watering and in the last week as I've managed to squeeze in a few more bulbs (crocus for Henry Mitchell, hyacinths and brimeura) I've been reminded that I need to hang in there a little longer...the beds are really dry. So now the watering is caught up and I spent part of today cleaning up leaves and cutting back perennials that are dying back (like some of the salvias and the cannas), as well as some pelargoniums that have just gotten too big. I'll save the real cutting back for spring when I know we're safe from a freeze...that way if we do have a freeze the plants will hopefully be big enough to survive after they get a spring trim. We haven't had a hard freeze for a few years...that's one reason the pelargoniums are a little excessive.
My family room window looks out at my sideyard fence and today was the day to switch the pots I have there. I've got begonias and succulents there in the summer but those are moving to the patio and so I put out the fall pots after filling them with some bright pansies. I don't have much yellow in my summer garden and no orange but, as I've said, winters here call for cheerful colors that show up on gray days. So I'm thankful that there are so many good pansy colors available...they'll stay there all winter with a short break when I put out the Christmas pots.
I've got several sets of pots I use on that part of the fence...since you can easily see them from the family room and dinner table I consider them part of the room decor. The pots are just terracotta pots I've painted with acrylic paint and then coated with two coats of outdoor varnish. They've held up for several years so, easy and pretty inexpensive.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Succulents Versus A Central Valley Winter

I have been on a succulent binge the last two years...there are so many really interesting choices and they are such a great plant for pots in our hot summer climate. I've learned not to waste the deeper pots on them...they are perfectly happy with a few inches of soil beneath them. I started out making combinations in pots as I have with other plants. Combinations work best when working with perennials, vines and annuals in the big pots I have gravitated to over the years. Our hot, dry summers require daily (or more frequent!) watering of small pots with most plants. But as I experimented with succulents I found they could get by with much less water and I began using all the abandoned small pots I had on the shelf and tried potting up one plant per pot. I really like the way the plants stand out on their own and I enjoy making combinations with groupings of the pots. I also learned that the hot afternoon sun was a bit much even for succulents and so grouped them against the west fence to allow some afternoon shade. But the most important thing I've learned...the thing that saves me having to replace plants come spring... is that it isn't just the winter cold that is hard on is sitting in the cold soaking wet. Our winters can be quite rainy and I actually like the rain (as long as I keep telling myself it is better than a drought) but the succulents need to be moved to a protected, covered spot so that they don't end up soaked with the night temperature dipping down towards freezing. So at some point I will be moving the pots to their winter home on shelves under my patio cover where they will be safe and dry and protected from the frosts we sometimes get and they will be much happier come spring when they get to go back out into the garden...just like many of us!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Years ago, when my garden was new, my children were babies and I truly had no money for plants , I felt really lucky to find a type of ligustrum (privet) popping up along my fence line. Fast forward 25 years and I'm not feeling so lucky. I spend several weekends a year cutting back and thinning these rampant growers to keep them out of the overhead phone and electric wires as well as keeping the shade to an acceptable level. I do like the way they look, the way they make the child's bench corner feel cozy and the general feeling of enclosure and privacy but sometimes I wish I had not been blessed with the variety that yearns to be 20 feet tall. For many years I was good about cutting them back severely each fall but as I came to know and enjoy the bird life in my yard I began to hesitate to remove their place of refuge. I have removed some of them over time as they were too crowded but after yesterday I am considering further removal. Did you ever have one of those garden days...nice weather, a few hours to get a job done and one by one things go from bad to worse? I am attempting to change my system... with the intent to cycle the plants yearly...some cut back severely, some just topped. I would have less work each year and the birds would have a place to hang out during winter storms. After a couple of hours of cutting and hauling branches to the street I decided to do one more big branch and leave the rest for next weekend. I have a fairly new really useful Fiskars polepruner which I find really managable. I guess I should say I had a nice polepruner. In the midst of sawing this branch the pruner got caught as the branch began to fall and the saw and blade attachments both snapped off. So now I had a branch hanging 6 feet off the ground connected to the polepruner handle by the cable that is still stretched between the blade and the handle... and the handle is wedged between branches of the privet. Once I realised the pruner was a complete loss I tried to cut the cable with my old, dull pruner. They sure make those cables strong! So I walked to the other side to try again to dislodge the handle and managed to step in the dog poop my dog was nice enough to place there in the midst of my sawing. Ok...try to keep calm and just get the job taken care of...let's check if I can see better from here...what was that? Now I've snapped off the sprinkler connection my dad put in for my soaker hose. Lucky for me, at this point my husband came out to see what in the world I was doing. He knows I love to play in the yard and that I'm a solitary garden type but he also knows that on occasion he needs to save me from myself. So between the two of us we got the pruner out (I recommend hitting it hard with the old pruner...uses up some of the emotions one feels at a moment like this) and he proceeded to haul the remaining branches to the curb...and even reminded me to take my shoes off before I went inside. Now I need to many more years can I do this? And what would I plant in their place? And is it safe to try to finish the job next weekend?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Time For Onions, Fennel and Beets!

Having recently used up last year's onions I was motivated to get some in the ground earlier this year...and there I was getting a nursery fix (sometimes I just need to be at a nursery even though I know it is a bad idea to imagine I have an empty spot to plant anything) and what should I see, but onion starts. Since I knew I wanted California Red that was easy. But there were also sweet yellow and Bermuda White...neither of which I've ever tried. So I came home with way too many onions for my garden size. I managed to get them planted in what will remain a sunny spot...not all of my veggie garden is sunny through the winter. And since I was tucking things in I planted green onions, fennel and chioggia beet seeds. I am also trying cippollini onions from seed...they should mature before the weather gets too cold. I am of the belief that if you saute a few onions you are halfway to a good meal...they smell so good!! Having done this earlier this week I was feeling pretty good about the garden and then yesterday I had a few minutes to spare and made the mistake of pulling in at the nursery again. Leeks! I love leeks...sauteed or in potato soup...and they are so pretty. Unfortunately, they were in a six pack with twenty or more in each today I bit the bullet and took out all the tomatoes except the cherries as well as one of the eggplants. The tomatoes had slowed way down and were getting that late in the summer look and this eggplant had stopped setting. Now I have an insane amount of well as some left over starts I need to find a home for.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Variety Is The Spice Of Gardening

I love reading garden blogs! I've tried to figure out what it is that is so addictive about them and I think I've figured out at least part of the deal. There are so many different approaches to gardening, so many different ideas about what a garden even is, so many different climates and conditions with which gardeners battle/are blessed. I find it all fascinating and, as I've said, addictive. But the main thing is the realization that we are all doing this because we want to; we enjoy the doing as much as the result. It is, as children's art should be, about the process, not the product. Oh, sure, we love the veggies and the flowers and I really enjoy relaxing in my garden with a good book and a cup of tea or glass of wine. I love being in a place I helped bring into being...a kind of place I find right for is what makes me happy and peaceful and calm. It may not be what anyone else likes or enjoys but that's OK because it is my garden! Everyone here is suffering from the same compulsion/affliction...NEEDING TO GARDEN!... but the style, the finances, the goals, the timelines all vary. Some of the jobs may not be our favorites, and I have more than once begun a project and realized I must be out of my warped mind, but the result is almost always a success even if it is not what I set out to do. Our gardens are never done and never perfect but it is the journey that we crave...where we're going and how we're traveling may vary but we're sharing the stories of our travels and I, for one, enjoy the company.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I can't hear you...

Why is everyone claiming summer is over? I feel like I'm just getting it together. Every year I need to be pulled, kicking and screaming, from summer into fall. It's not that I don't enjoy things about the fall and I've even found myself enjoying winter "gardening", which for me is mostly wandering the yard doing bits of cleanup. For many years I felt done once I had cleaned up the veggies and done a good perennial deadheading/annual removal. And then I tried growing lettuces, onions and broccoli only to have them eaten, I believed, by snails. Well, last year I discovered that the culprits were sparrows, eating any greens down to the ground as they sprouted or were transplanted into the garden. So I built a reverse bird cage out of PVC and screening and, lo and behold, I had a lettuce crop! So I guess I will get to do a bit more actual gardening this winter...which, however, doesn't mean I'm happy about all this end-of-summer talk.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I finally have an edible zucchini! I started a new type of zucchini (Striata d'Italia) from seed this year and the plants are pretty and would seem to be prolific bearers. But this is the first squash that hasn't shrivelled after reaching a few inches you can see one doing near the pretty one. I hard is zucchini to grow??!! I've always viewed it as fool proof...any suggestions as to what causes this would be appreciated!
On the other hand, I'm feeling happy about the portulaca, salvia, society garlic area near my hot driveway. I've got Biokova cranesbill here that burns out in the summer and this area often looks less than inviting...and it is right at the front door. So this year I wedged in some portulaca and Victoria Blue salvia and it looks much prettier and is way less water needy.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The threat of aerial spraying for mosquitos is on hold thanks to the delta breezes that picked up Thursday PM. It remains to be seen whether it will happen in the coming week or not. It's frustrating that backyard standing water seems to be a major contributor to the mosquito problem and that people can't seem to take the time to do a quick check of their yard to dump out stagnant water. I'm not happy about the idea of my yard being sprayed...and I'm getting tired of covering the veggies. I really don't want to have to worry about the food I'm growing myself...part of the reason I grow it is so that I don't have to worry about what is on what we eat. My yard is full of spiders, bees, skippers and cabbage moths with lesser numbers of other visitors and I'll be interested to see what happens if and when we get sprayed...(if only they could target earwigs...)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Garden Spider

There seem to be more garden spiders this year than there ever have been before. Webs are stretched across paths even in places that seem too wide for them to reach. They start out so small and by this time of the summer they are just getting bigger and bigger and more beautiful each day. Here is one that was tucked into the wisteria this morning.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Given that I have a fairly small yard and need space for the day care children to play my vegetable garden is smaller than I would like. One would think that I would have learned by now how to space things out so it is not a jungle when it's time to start picking the veggies of my labor but I seem to suffer from a combination of optimism and pessimism. What if some of the plants don't grow? What if that type of tomato doesn't set this year? Won't it be great to have tons of peppers? Surely two plants could squeeze in where I thought to put one. In any case it appears I have successfully overplanted again. (How could I throw out those last tomato starts that I couldn't give away?) Maybe by taking photos and making myself look at them next spring I will find a way to control least a little.

Monday, July 17, 2006

This time of year the early morning is the time to check out the is now not quite 2:00 and it has hit 104 degrees. Breakfast on the patio was beautiful but now I'm waiting out the's just not fun in this heat. Luckily, I managed to keep up with watering this weekend and I checked all the pots this morning. At least the tomatoes will continue to ripen quickly! Both the bell peppers and Italian long sweet peppers are doing well...I'll need to pick more and do something with them for dinner before I get overloaded with them. The eggplant is coming along but my guess is it is at least a couple of weeks until we can pick some.
The perennials are still flowering far they are enjoying the heat. Here are a few photos actually taken last Friday.
Geranium Rozanne and alstroemeria Regina, and Geranium Rozanne growing through a succulent pot.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Caprese Salad

The basil has been ready and used for a number of other recipes but the real reason it exists is caprese salad...and today there were four tomatoes ripe enough to has been a test of my patience to leave them and not pick them "almost ripe". But why would I grow them if I was going to do that! Here is a photo of the first of this years' salads. Molto buono!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Headboard/Fence Photo

Here is a photo of the completed fence...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

It's too hot to dig outside so I came in to check some things on the computer...and I ended up here! I'm really enjoying reading all the great garden blogs and realized this might be a way to keep up with my garden can only hope.
I've been gardening most of my life but for the past 26 years I've had too many gardens to recall, all in this same yard. There was the one that came with the house (OK not much more than a bottlebrush, overgrown plum tree and weeds), the raised beds we put in soon thereafter, the mostly grass so the kids could play, and most recently a number of evolutions that have seen the grass slowly disappearing. At least it is gone in the front yard and reduced in the back...I still need space for the children in my family child care to play. But I have added shade in several forms and most of those are living.
My job for today was to dig holes to put in a new fence/trellis. My neighbor down the street was nice enough to put out a great metal and wood headboard with a "free" sign on it...I feel a little guilty for taking it instead of pointing out to her that it was perfect for the yard...I just cut the posts down so I didn't need a 2 1/2 foot hole and it is looking good! As soon as it cools off I can finish digging and it will be ready to go.
I also pruned the banksia rose on the arbor...just a little too enthusiastic of a grower to let it be. Aside from that there was deadheading and watering as always. And of course checking for those almost ripe tomatoes...I want my Caprese salad!