Strangely enough, amidst the deepest of droughts, it rained this morning. In fact this was the third time precipitation has fallen from the sky this summer, if I’m counting correctly. Of course none of these rains have done much to help the drought nor has it even watered the plants all that well. However, us native Californians will tell you, rain in summer is just weird and miraculous!
The plants, though they didn’t get a good soaking, very much appreciated the little they did get. They all looked much happier this morning upon my usual morning stroll. One of my favorite areas are these new planting beds we had built on either side of the deck staircase. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to the nursery and picked out all new plants for an all new bed. Fun! Pineapple sage, dahlias, purple fountain grass, mexican feather grass, artimesia, lavender, black and blue salvia and a few others fill the beds.
In previous summers (2013, 2012, 2011) this bed was overflowing with sunflowers and corn and melons, this year it lays fallow, filled with weeds and dried fava beans. It’s okay… the soil needs to rest, right? Sure.
Radishes, along with the other seedling I planted last week are sprouting up. Thank you weird, welcome summer rain.
Category Archives: State of the Garden
We seem to have entered into the phase of summer where it’s just plain hot & dry. The tomatoes and peppers aren’t complaining though. The tomatoes are starting to tower over our heads and are sending us inside with handfuls of red jems to enjoy. Remember we added in our drainage pipes a few weeks ago and it seems to be paying off, they are all looking very healthy and happy.
Those metal containers? Look how happy things are growing in them. That basil, that tiny little store bought basil is almost tree like now. It’s the biggest basil we’ve ever grown. And the cucumbers are thriving too.
The grapes, our poor little dry farmed grapes (irrigation going in next year, right?) are coming ripe. They are so fun to go visit and pick with the kids.
I worked on this bed over the weekend. Getting out the pesky dead weeds and amending it with gypsum, which helps break up the clay soil. These zucchini got a late start, but seem to be happy and with a little bit of daily watering and some luck new seedlings will be joining them. Kale, chard, spinach, cilantro, carrots and radishes. I also added in a few biannual flower seeds that I’ll transplant out to the flower garden once they get going. Since I was going to be watering everyday, might as well group all the seedlings together! It feels good to have the time to focus on the garden once more and to feel hopeful about it again.
How are things going in your garden? Are you feeling good about the state of things?
This year we are gardening minimalists. At least compared to our previous gardening efforts. You’ve heard me talk about how we had a busy winter/spring enough times. The visual proof is a garden about a third the size of our typical summer garden. But we have all the essentials. Tomatoes & peppers, a few squash, plenty of herbs. And our galvanized bins full of cucumbers and lettuce. We’ve stuck a few melon seeds in the ground to see what will happen.
We put our drainage pipes back in between the tomatoes. We went three years without doing that and we know now that for us, adding the drainage pipes produces a much nicer tomato plant. While we use drip lines for regular watering, being able to stick the hose down those pipes once a week or so, and water really deeply makes a world of difference.
It’s easy to beat ourselves up for not getting it all done as large-scale as in previous years, but we’re slowly learning to be easier on ourselves. We bought almost all our plants this year, no time for starting from seeds. And besides all that, it’s a drought year, so we’re even more justified with staying ‘small’ this growing season. We are loving growing in these raised galvanized tanks. There have been a few mutterings about wouldn’t it be dreamy to get another 8 of them and just grow as much as we can in them. I don’t know if that would really happen, but we are enjoying the two we have immensely. The way they are positioned, the sun hits them just right so they are much more photogenic, you’ll be seeing a lot of them. So we hope you like them too.
How’s your garden doing this year?
It must be as I’m getting older, but the busier my head gets, the more I crave neatness and order. There is a solid half of me that thrives in wildness, that even feels inspired by it, and yet there is a solid and loud half of me that goes a little batty when I see chaos. This is displayed in consistent mass purges (took 8+ bags to the thrift store the other day and already filled up three more) and and a real affection for putting my Felco pruners to good use in the garden.
When we first moved in we knew we needed a new deck, but we put a band-aid fix on it. We replaced just a couple of key boards that would help hold up the rest of the dry rotted boards about 3 years we figured. Our 3 year mark of living here is coming up this month (yikes!) and we knew we had to replace our deck. As house projects go ‘simply replacing the deck’ started a domino effect that became a very involved and intricate project involving moving doors, replacing siding, taking out bushes and pouring a new cement patio.
This project, we realized, is really the first project that we’ve created sort of from scratch. Though we’re using the same footprint of what was here, we had a lot of creative play with what materials and colors and slight design details we chose. And oh, what a laborious project freedom of choice can entail. We bickered and laughed and grew closer and almost strangled each other until we came up with our final game plan.
And this, what you see before you, is one half of it. Neat, straight, tidy. We cleared the shrubs, straightened out curved lines and laid landscape cloth, all drawn up on graph paper with mechanical pencils. We even hired two different contractors. This method of building something is all new to us; hob nob, rag tag, cobbled together DIYers. We feel very grown up.
As you can see we added two raised beds. We’ve missed them. We used to garden in them exclusively, but now we grow our veggies straight in the ground which comes with a fair amount of challenges we’ve never faced before. In effort to make gardening ‘simple’ again, we put in these two beds close to our back door to house things we’d like to grab quickly like lettuce, basil & parsley to name a few. As you can see we used stock tanks which conveniently come with a drainage hole at the bottom that irrigation fits right into. We also drilled a few holes in the bottom for drainage and filled it with compost, potting mix and good ol’ Sonoma dirt.
If I were to turn right around and show you what was behind us you might screech at the sight, it’s a total deck debacle. But in just a few weeks time, it’s going to look fantastic. And all of this immediate order, this direct view out my window, will hopefully bring calmness of mind to my scatterbrained self, so that I may venture peacefully further out into the inspiring wildness.
We don’t maintain this side of the yard very well. There is so much of our yard in plain view that needs to be pruned and weeded and well watered. This side of our yard often gets forgotten, yet look, it’s thriving. How does that work? Without a drop of water in the summer, without much human touch, it’s growing into a wild and verdant, flower filled country jungle. I like it this way. We’ve been re-doing the area directly in back of our house into a straight-lined, open, orderly spot. In doing so I worried that somehow that would domino effect the entire yard into an orderly, squared off sort of garden. Part of me likes that order, but we moved here for the wild-ness of it all. So our new personal landscape philosophy is Order Turning Towards Wild. Areas right in front and in back will tend towards the orderly, but the further you venture, we’ll let things turn wild and untamed. At least that’s what we’re aiming for.
This is the side of the house that the children’s windows look out upon and I find it fitting that they look out onto the wild side. The bees live on this side. There is a pathway that was once maintained and that only they fit through now.
Next time I write, I’ll show you the order. For now, I leave you with the wild.
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?
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 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?
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.
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!
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’.