Saturday, December 11, 2010

I love being able to garden in December

While winter closes in on much of the rest of the country, it's fall here in SoCal.  The maples are beautiful shades of red and orange, leaves are falling, and it was sunny and 77 degrees today.  So, after doing a bit of Christmas shopping in the morning, I spent all afternoon gardening.  Here's today's list of accomplishments:

  • Scored two garbage cans full of grass clippings from my neighbor.  He looked at me like I was insane when I asked if I could have them.  I tried to explain that I needed them for my compost pile, and they would make my vegetables grow better.  He still looked at me like I was insane.  He handed over the clippings, though, so I don't care if he thinks I'm nuts.  Now my compost bin is full, and I've started a new pile with one can of clippings and a pile of newly-raked leaves.  Happiness is a full compost bin.
  • Planted some cool-season veggies: 
    • Scallions - "Delicious duo" red and green scallion seeds from Renee's Garden Seeds
    • Spinach - unknown variety given to me by someone on Glendora Freecycle
    • Beets - "Detroit Dark Red"
    • Radishes - "Crimson Giant," also courtesy of a Glendora Freecycler  
  • Cleaned up some debris left in the yard by the previous owners
  • Put a ring of stones around one of our orange trees
Now I'm resting a bit before date night at Disneyland with my husband.  What a wonderful Saturday!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Some progress in the new garden

The blank slate backyard is a little less blank now, thanks mostly to hubby.  He widened a path and built four 16x4' raised beds (yay hubby!), and we filled two of the beds with soil this weekend.  Here's the latest pic:

I've also planted a few cool-season veggies elsewhere in the yard--some lettuce, chard, and garlic in a small bed near the house, and some "Melting Sugar" snow peas along a trellis/fence by Mom's cottage.  I planted the peas in late October, and they're coming along nicely:

It's wonderful to be able to garden this late in the year!  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated

No, I'm not dead, though moving has been the death of my blogging, at least for awhile.  Last April I moved from Portland to Southern California, trading rain, mud, and slugs for sunshine, scorched earth, and more slugs, plus some snails to keep them company (and black widows, cockroaches the size of carthorses, June bugs, and who knows what else that I haven't discovered yet).  Despite my many multilegged adversaries, I love the sun and warmth down here.

We were lucky to find a house with a larger than average yard, so I have room for some new gardening adventures.  The yard is mostly a blank slate, lots of weedy grass with a few trees and shrubs, including 5 (!) citrus trees (yay!).  Here are a few pics:

Blank slate backyard:

Northwest corner of the backyard.  The tree on the right is either an orange or a tangerine (or some other citrus-y object that resembles an orange).

Now I just have to learn how to garden in this alien environment.  Though I'm a native Californian, I grew up in Northern California, where it's a bit cooler, at least in the winter.  And, I was a typical kid, much more interested in music, guys, cars, guys, friends, guys, sleeping late, and guys, than I was in learning how to grow stuff.  Gardening was something old people like my mom and grandpa droned on about for hours while I watched MTV.  Needless to say, I didn't learn much about California gardening, so I'm starting over as a novice.  After 14 years in cool, wet Portland, I feel like I'm gardening on another planet.  Here are a few of my observations as a stranger in a strange (but wonderfully warm and sunny) land:

  • Citrus trees grow in the ground here, as God intended.  No more hauling potted lemon trees into the greenhouse in September and trying to keep them alive through a Portland winter. 
  • Bougainvillea, an exotic tropical that I tried (and failed) to grow in my greenhouse in Portland, is a huge, mutant, thorny thing down here.  If you turn your back on it for 5 minutes, it will eat your house.
  • Summer is the dead season for gardening in SoCal, as it's too hot to do much (besides watering... all the time), and new plantings are likely to shrivel in the heat.  Now, though, is prime planting time, especially for cool-season stuff like lettuce and onions that I would have planted in March back in Portland. 
  • And speaking of climate differences, I still can't get used to how warm it is here.  Granted, this has been a weird weather year all over, but we had a 100-degree day in early November!  Huh?  My poor lettuce was so confused.  
  • You'd think that with the hot, dry climate, people would mulch down here.  But you would be wrong.  Even in professionally-tended landscapes, I see bare dirt in the planting beds.  Not me.  I'm going to pile a few inches of fall leaves (assuming the leaves actually fall... they haven't yet) on everything, so I don't have to water every 10 minutes next summer. 
Farewell for now, and to all of you readers with gardens covered in snow and ice or swampy with rain... It was sunny and 70 here today.  Neener, neener, neener!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Man Eating Plants, And Lovin' It.

Just to tide everybody over while I work on a much longer and FAR less entertaining post to mark my return to this blog after at least a year off (sorry about that -- I'll explain later), I wanted to share this amazing set of photographs from the March issue of National Geographic -- marking their first article ever on carnivorous plants!

Wow, stunning! But, hey, don't be fooled; that's how they work, people. They look so pretty and nice, and so you bend over and pinch their little cheeks as you say cheerfully, "Golly, you amazing, sweet, colorful thing, how are you today?" and then the minute your head gets down close enough, CHOMP! There goes your face! I've seen Little Shop of Horrors, you're not fooling me with those classy good looks, Audrey.

After you view the photographs, don't forget to read the article itself, which is also utterly fascinating! I remember having Venus fly traps as a kid and being completely enthralled by they way they worked, but I haven't owned a carnivorous plant since. Might be time to seek some out. Are there any that grow well outside in the Pacific Northwest?

Nature, you amaze me. Keep on keepin' on with that.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hope is on the horizon

Here on the rainy side of the Pacific Northwest, January is a dark, dreary month.  The days are still short, and clouds and rain are near-constants.  Most of my gardening this time of year is of the armchair variety--poring over seed catalogs, reading back issues of garden magazines, and imagining the perfect garden that will, of course, never exist.  We had a rare sunny winter day yesterday, though, so I was able to weed two large flowerbeds and plant some poppy seeds.  I also spent a few minutes outside with my camera.  My yard seems nearly barren except for the evergreen trees, shrubs, and ferns, and spring seems a long way off.  If I look closer, however, I see the first signs of spring.  Here--let me show you:

Hellebores are the earliest-blooming plants in my garden.  It's such a delight to see some color on these dark days. 
Hellebore ready to bloom


The vegetable garden isn't a complete wasteland.  Here's some garlic, along with a couple of winter weeds I was too lazy to pull:
Garlic and a couple weeds

Continuing with the edibles, both the red and green rhubarb are breaking ground:
Red rhubarb breaking ground

Green rhubarb breaking ground

The woodland garden is beautiful even in winter, because the sword ferns look fresh and green:
Winter view of my creekside woodland

I don't know what those mysterious red berries are.  They grow on wild vines that I keep mostly pulled, but I let a few stay so I can enjoy the berries in winter.  Here's a closeup:
Mysterious vine with red berries

And then there are the spring bulbs.  Daffodils and Spanish bluebells are just starting to break ground:
Daffodils and Spanish bluebells breaking

And finally, filbert catkins grace the winter landscape:
Filbert catkins

It's still winter, but the days are getting longer, and the first plants of spring are pushing sleepily through the sodden soil.  Hope is on the horizon...