Category Archives: state of the garden

the state of things around here


Oh boy it’s been quiet around these parts, hasn’t it? I’ve been a bit of a hermit the past few weeks. With a little vacation to Santa Cruz (Why aren’t we living the life of Capitola beach bums? I really have no good answer for that.), a new adjustment to summer routines and the last round of new window replacement happening, it’s been good to be quiet for while. Now we’ve got our summer rhythm going and the windows, the glorious, glorious new windows are done with. So let’s get back to life, shall we?

With such a dry spring and such a blasting hot summer, it’s hard to find good flowers to photograph now, but I found these two beautiful ones this morning.

A few months ago I called my mom, a fellow milkweed grower, and asked how her milkweed was doing…was it coming out of dormancy? Yes, hers had, she even sent pictures. Mine looked as dead as a doornail, but when I tugged those roots wanted to stay in the ground, so I waited and waited and sure enough, it’s a healthy and vibrant plant. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but this spring I realized that living out where we are, we are about two weeks behind what blooms in the town of Sonoma. And about three weeks to a month behind where my parents live in the East Bay. Interesting.

Despite a few hiccups the veggie garden is coming along. We made another important realization this spring: gophers love plastic. Well, at least gophers who live in these parts do. We’ve observed a few farms that use black plastic sheeting as mulch and weed suppressant, so we thought we’d give it a try too. We put it all down around the melons you see in the foreground and within no time it was riddled with gophers. Even using gopher sticks which have always been a great deterrent. Scott went ahead and ripped out the plastic and wha-la, the gophers retreated once more. We should have known, they do love to tunnel under our plastic, above ground pool.

The beans are growing sky high and we’re starting to be able to pick them. Hey, looks like a morning glory found it’s way to a trellis.

The raspberries, while first starting on ‘my’ half of this bed, have been migrating over to ‘Scott’s side’ of the garden. Hrmph! I’m trying not to take it personally. Apparently they like a nice well amended, double dug bed as much as any other plant does.

How are things going in your garden?


Filed under state of the garden

State of the Garden


Despite the bugs and the drought, the garden is coming along indeed. The evening primrose is starting the bloom (the yellow petal or two you see), along with the mexican evening primrose (the pink). The cabbage and collards and carrots are keeping our bellies full. And this seems like it will be the year for peaches! Last year, after a hard prune, we only had enough peaches for eating and two jars of jam. This year we hope to add many more jars of jam to the pantry.

The raspberries seem to be coming alive quite nicely amongst the mexican evening primrose and statice.

Last year was a down year for blackberries for us as well, but this year is looking good so far! Blackberry Bars, here we come!

The hydrangea I needlessly purchased last July is about to bloom mixed with ladybells.

And look at this cute little petunia. Always wanting to be outside, always wanting to wear pink and always telling you that one day she’s ‘going to do ballet’.


Filed under state of the garden

gardening in a dry year


It’s been a dry year here in California. One of the driest winters on record. To us, even though we had a very wet fall, it seemed like after the holidays the faucet was shut off. There was really almost no rain whatsoever after the holidays. Such a strange winter. And this spring we are certainly seeing the signs. Sure, if you squint your eyes and turn your head a little to the left, things look pretty good. Flowers are blooming, trees are leafing out. But if you look closely you’ll notice that the lawn is almost dead already, spring flowers are getting torched by this early heat (supposed to be in the 90′s tomorrow!), and we are relying heavily on irrigation…already. This is going to be a long summer.

A few years ago I wrote a post on drought friendly vegetable gardening, (wow, I used to write such different posts back then!) which is worth a read if you are struggling with water issues too. In regards to that post, we outfitted two more beds with in-line drip irrigation. We ordered 15 yards of mulch to heavily cover the irrigation and our tender crops. We are also focusing heavily on three beds this growing year instead of last years four beds. And I’m heavily mulching the flower gardens to help retain every last ounce of water in the soil. We need, however to get these beds on a timer, so that they can be watered in the evening or early morning hours. That is an easy step, we just need to put it higher on our priority list.

Luckily we have the option of putting our laundry on grey water. We’ve had this since we moved in, but it only drains out to one spot. Though I shouldn’t complain, the snowball hydrangea looks quite happy about the situation. However, my hope for the near future is that I can hook it up to a pipe that has multiple perforations in it, so that it can water a larger area along our foundation plantings.

How is the rain/water situation where you garden? Do you have any drought gardening tricks?


Filed under mulch, soil, state of the garden, water, what we've learned

Meanwhile Miscellany

Goodness, where have I been the past two weeks? Well, that is in part due to the dreaded stomach flu that my children had and in part due to the fact that my camera USB cord bit the dust. What’s a blog post without photographs? Not too interesting in my opinion, despite the fact that one of my favorite blogs has never posted a picture. However the new cable is here and my spring growth photos are ready for sharing!
: :  This week marks FIVE years of blogging for this Sonoma garden. Amazing that so much time has passed. I’m going to celebrate, so stay tuned!
: :  I cracked open the hives for the first time since late October and I had expected to find little honey and lots of brood in the top box. I was surprised to find full top boxes full of new honey! I didn’t feel it was warm enough to break apart the hive down to the brood boxes quite yet. So I took some frames of honey and moved them up into a new box on top to entice them up. Beekeeping is such a fascinating hobby, as you don’t just learn about bees, but so much more about the local ecology, such as what is blooming at the moment. Thank you eucalyptus, willow, bay, manzanita, mustard and wild radish for that new honey & pollen!
: :  We got brave and planted a whole slew of new seedlings about three weeks ago. Lettuce, radishes, chinese mustard, broccoli rabe, cabbage and the such. Last year when we did such a thing our seedlings got eaten to the ground. We suspected birds or maybe pill bugs. Maybe flea beetles, we didn’t know who was to blame. So this year we covered a section with row cover. They too got nibbled on. The culprits? Pill bugs! They got my pepper box poppy seedlings too, the buggers!
: : Have you seen Floret Flower Farm’s new blog project? She’s pairing with another flower farmer/florist on the opposite side of the country to post an arrangement each week. Sort of reminds me of the old 3191 Evening/Morning posts, remember those? Anyway, to die for creations! We have so many flowers growing here, but arranging is certainly not my gift, not like these ladies.
: : I have been scheming of how I can get myself to the Taproot Gathering next autumn in New Hampshire. One of my closest friends of 20 years just moved to New Hampshire. I have to make this happen, but how?
: : My friend and neighbor, just took a workshop from from Tumbleweed Tiny Houses and had me over for tea to talk about it and show me the books she got. And now I have tiny houses on the brain. Which is ridiculous because our family of five just moved out of a relatively tiny house and I’m quite enjoying stretching our legs out in this larger house. But wouldn’t they be fun to build? What a great little retreat or guest cabin. Then the idea of building led me back to Riana’s photostream, which I’ve been following for years. And now I have plastering and milk paint making on the brain. Which of course led me to straw bale building, which is what Scott and I really want to do some day. In the meanwhile, let’s all encourage Michelle to build a tiny house!


Filed under state of the garden

Winter Hibernation

We didn’t plant a winter garden this year. Not a thing. Not even an attempt at our usual broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower. In fact we didn’t even so much as put a kale seedling in the ground. With having our summer garden go in late and our harvest extending much later than usual, we were wiped out. To tell you the truth, when we’ve wimped out on our winter garden it’s come with a lot of guilt. Where we live, we really can garden almost all year round, so the pressure is on to take advantage of that.
However I believe there is great benefits to a period of hibernation, both for the soil and for the soul. This year we didn’t allow ourselves to feel guilty. We had done enough last spring and summer, it is time to rest. And I have much suspicions that having the garden, and the gardeners, rest for the winter is going to create an extraordinary spring garden. Because now that the holidays are good and done with we are all chomping at the big to get going again.
This past weekend we were all out there in force. Weed whacking, trench digging (for new irrigation), hand weeding, mulch moving, rock hauling. All of us eager workers. The seed catalogs are worn with near constant browsing. The garden books are showing up more frequently on the coffee table. While we aren’t ready to fully give up our winter garden hibernation, spring is looking oh so sweet to us.


Filed under holidays, state of the garden

The Beginning of Autumn

Welcome autumn! Oh yes, I know technically autumn started a few weeks ago, but to us, this weekend seemed like the very beginning of fall. The temperatures finally cooled, leaves started dropping and everything seems bathed in that warm sunlight. As I was preparing to finish painting our current kitchen this morning, I was delighted to find that our old kitchen has received a much needed facelift and was featured on Remodelista. You must go take a look!

Around here the walnuts are starting to drop. Since I work well against deadline, I called the boys outside to sit and crack the last bag of last years walnuts before we have to start collecting this years. And I will certainly have to collect some hulls for more walnut dye.

Turns out we did grow a banana squash this year. Though with our late start they haven’t gotten as big in years past. That’s a bit of a relief to be honest!

The grapes have been picked.

A portion of a shrub up and died on us for no good reason. Which meant this little bird nest got to come inside. The egg I collected and saved from a few months ago. The bowl is a relic from my days as an aspiring potter.

Scott harvested up our Smoke Signals popcorn on Sunday. We need to let it sit out for 4-6 weeks until it dried properly and then we can pop away.

Happy Autumn!


Filed under just picked, state of the garden

Early Morning Walk


Happy Weekend Friends!


Filed under state of the garden

September’s Harvest


We’ve been harvesting green beans like crazy around here. We did a big long row of bush beans, both green and yellow and also purple pole beans which has yielded countless dinners, four frozen quarts and five pints of pickled green beans, with yet another heaping pile in the fridge. In years past we’ve grown a handful of bush bean plants that have provided enough for a few dinners. This year we feel incredibly spoiled.

The melons have grown so that it’s now a lush carpet of vines. Be careful of where you step!

The flowers are enjoying a fall resurgence, school starts today for our boys and I hope that means blogging will become more a part of the routine again.

Happy September!


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State of the Garden


melons + corn + winter squash + sunflowers

scarlet runner beans + popcorn

a mountainous pattypan squash plant

little legs + picking grapes

a garden friend


Filed under state of the garden

If you squint your eyes and turn your head a little….


I ran into a friend the other week who asked how the garden was growing. I replied back in a relatively negative way commenting on all the things that weren’t doing well. But truthfully, for our first growing season in a new garden, things are going just fine. Yes, there is still a large learning curve we have yet to round, but all in all, things are coming along quite well.


The tomato patch is developing beautifully. Doesn’t it always amaze you year after year that just a few month ago you put a small speck of a seed in a little soil and now it’s grown to the top of your five foot high cages? Every year I’m in disbelief. New cages were in order.


The peppers are setting on in profusion after a sprinkling of and watering in of epsom salts a few weeks ago. That gives them a magnesium boost and causes them to make more peppers. We’ve already eaten our first round of Padrons, they aren’t so spicy this early in the season.

Even though we planted the onions much later than we normally do (in late Feb/early March I think?) they grew almost better than in years past. Before we planted in early January and they’d always bolt before it was time to harvest them, this year nary a one bolted. Maybe the key is to plant them late in this climate.

As long as you stand back far enough the beans don’t look bug eaten, nor does the popcorn look like rabbits nibbled on them.

Same with the kale, as long as you squint your eyes and turn your head a little to the left, this row doesn’t look bug bitten in the least.

The escarole hasn’t been touched at all. I was worried that if the bugs didn’t like it then the boys certainly wouldn’t like it however, last week I made a pasta dish with escarole, spinach and chard from Chez Panisse Vegetables that the boys ate all of, even every last green! I couldn’t believe it. I need to save that recipe!

I guess maybe it’s hard in the garden not to get focused on the things not going well. You put so much effort into tending to things that when a rabbit comes and eats it straight down to the ground, or an unknown bugs wipes out an entire row of seedlings in a night, it’s hard not to let that frustration be our point of focus. But that’s the learning part of gardening, seeing what does grow well, what doesn’t, what your pests are and what diseases show up. Pretty soon, as each year passes, we’ll learn how this little patch of earth works, but for now it’s a practice of passing over the negative and focusing on what is doing well.

Happy weekend friends!


Filed under state of the garden