California, garden

This month, the garden

One of the misters I’m aiming to replace.

Last week, a headline ran in the local newspaper: storm coming! More rain than we’ve had all year! 

It netted out to about half an inch. 

It was probably the last real rain we’ll see till October. 

Usually I turn off the sprinklers & drip system in winter, but a few weeks back I looked around and realized pretty much everything needed more water. I’ve been gradually switching to more natives and Mediterranean plants, aiming for a low-water garden, but *low* water isn’t *no* water, and even California natives need some moisture in the winter, especially if they’re baby plants which aren’t yet established. Plus there are the citrus trees, and the vegetable garden, and the berries. We’ve had a lot of drought years and I aim to mostly grow things that make sense in this climate, but watering plants that produce food feels like a solid trade-off. 

So, for the past few weeks that’s been my focus: repair, update, overhaul the sprinkler system. Partly this was just reminding myself what needed doing and repairing lines that various critters had chewed through (I’m telling myself it’s bunnies, which is a nicer thought than the alternatives), but I also switched from misters to drip lines in an ornamental bed where I plan to make a dry garden, and indulge my love of cactus & succulents; ripped out the water-hungry invasive blackberries that were strangling the fig tree (the berries were tasty, but so are figs, and there are more blackberries elsewhere); replaced some lavender plants that didn’t make it last year; planted tomatoes & basil (it’s early, but it’s an experiment, and one of the basil varieties is supposed to manage okay in cold nights); added more strawberries because why not; and planted, indeed, more natives. 

There’s still more I want to do on the drip lines. Having seen how much more pleasant they are than misters, and how much less prone to breaking, I want to switch them *all* out, not just the ones I’d initially targeted. And I still need to get the sprinklers for the (very small; another tradeoff) back lawn up and running, which means replacing & adjusting all the pop-up heads. 

From January through March, I also logged how much time I spent working in the garden. Three months of data seems like enough to give me a clear picture. It feels like a lot, but is it really? I’d like to set the garden up to be low(er) effort. But how much of a diff can I get to? Unknown. Nearly everything I’ve done in the past couple of months goes beyond maintenance to improvements (although I remain amazed by how fast weeds grow back). I’m aiming to get to a point where I can both maintain what’s here, and make small improvements, in maybe two afternoons each week. 

Meanwhile, it’s incredibly satisfying to look at the new native huckleberries, and the mallows along the fence, and the starts for rainbow chard, and the flowers interspersed with the jacarandas, and feel the sense and shape of the garden coming into focus. This morning when I went outside the drip lines on the citrus trees were humming away, and I thought, okay, that’s good, that’s better.


January 2022 – Garden update

A friend of mine who moved to California from the east coast and Texas said this was the first year she’d understood her Californian friends’ obsession with winter. The world isn’t dormant and brown here; it’s the deep jewel-green of citrus leaves, luminescent paler green on hillsides, sparkling waterfalls, hazy blue skies, fiery sunrises after dramatic dark-sky rain. It’s beautiful.

And at least in my garden, it’s also totally chaotic. The oxalis is trying taking over. The flowers reseeding from last year’s experiments have decided to sprout exclusively in the cracks in the path. And speaking of that path, pretty much anything that involves plastic edging (why did anyone ever put plastic edging here? not only is it ugly, it’s on a hillside; it is naturally going to fall over because, you know, gravity) is slowly sliding out of place. I dug out the blackberry under the fig and cleaned up the strawberry bed (just uttering the phrase strawberry bed gives me a quick hit of delight; I love that strawberries are perennial here, and at least half the plants in the bed are babies of the ones I originally planted) but there is so much still to do!

I also got a new camera over the holidays, and I am experimenting with it for the first time in this blog post. With that, here’s a quick tour of things glowing brightly in my garden right now:

The tea tree is just starting to bud, with deep-pink velvet blooms.

Firecracker salvia needs cutting back, but it’s a lovely orange.

New olive leaves have this lovely dusky sage color.

New blooms on these flowers growing oh-so-conveniently in the path.

Jasmine is just beginning to bud.

Navel orange with deep green leaves.

The days have been short, gray, and rainy. This makes it hard to weed, prune the roses, prune the fruit trees, clear out the fallen fruit from the orchard – although I can’t bear to take down the spent pomegranates; the birds are having such a lovely time with them! – dig out the agapanthus I want to get rid of, cut back the things that need cutting back, contemplate whether to dormant-spray the peach and nectarine, see if my new seeds have come in the mail… ! Eek.

It’s beautiful anyway.

I’m posting this partly as a ‘hmm, do I want to start blogging again?’ experiment and partly in time for #SixOnSaturday, a garden meme I first encountered at The Propagator. Click through if you’d like glimpses into others’ gardens, often from all around the world.


September garden update

It has indeed been a while. The days here are still hot, but the angle of the light has shifted to fall. I haven’t been writing much on this blog, in part because… I’ve been writing elsewhere! Specifically, on a vintage typewriter, as a way to a) focus and b) combat the impact of spending so much time on a screen for work. TBD what the results of that will turn into. I have some thoughts, but they’re early-stage.

But. I miss writing about gardening, and I miss reading other people’s blogs about gardening! So here I am with a six-on-Saturday update (for other gardeners’ Six posts, head over to The Propagator’s blog).

Meanwhile, here’s how things are in my garden! With a focus on things that seem particularly relevant to September.

The ceanothus is making it through! Thanks to some good advice from Barbara Eisenstein over at Weeding Wild Suburbia, I’ve been giving it just a bit of summer water, specifically early in the morning on cooler days, and not too often. It is looking much less struggly than it was a couple of months ago.

The mandarin orange, on the other hand… I don’t know what to do for this mandarin orange. Clearly it needs water, but I’m not sure if the drip system quantity and timing are just insufficient, or if it’s got root-rot. In one case, I should give it more. In the other, less. There’s also the complicating factor that the pomegranates are on the same line, so if I increase the time here, I’m increasing the time on them too, and the fruit might split… Aargh. I’m planning to poke around it a bit today and kind of see what I can figure out.

More citrus! The navel orange, in contrast to the mandarin, is looking ridiculously happy. Just look at all those nice green oranges. Should be great in maybe January or so.

A couple of weeks back, I planted my fall vegetable bed. I was determined to give it the best start I could, so I leveled the ground, redid the sprinkler system (switching from drip lines to misters), and dug in a couple of bags of fertilizer / compost / general-soil-improving-type-stuff. So far this is looking good! I’m going to thin & weed later this afternoon.

Malabar spinach. An experiment. So far, delicious, pretty, and with any luck a perennial that keeps on giving. I’m increasingly aiming for edibles that do not need re-planting every year.…

These flowers, part of a ‘beneficial bugs’ mix that I enthusiastically sprinkled around my vegetable gardens, were a total win. Love the colors. My idea of planting them in the vegetable beds, maybe not so much. Live and learn.

That’s my garden these days! Happy September to you.

And … it feels wrong to post this on September 11 without mentioning something about September 11. Twenty years. I don’t know what to say, but just… September 11.