A Garden in Rest

We’re quite spoiled living in California this time of year. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing, and we’re frequently treated to several days of unseasonably warm conditions. 

Curb garden perennials going to seed

While much of the country is dealing with weather known as the polar vortex with insanely cold and hazardous conditions, I’m wearing a t-shirt as I go about my day. I wish I could send all my mid-west and eastern seaboard friends a bit of warmth and sunshine. Come June, I’ll be looking on enviously at your summer rains.

Nigella and sweet peas populate the curb garden

I’ve been popping into the garden at the end of the day, pulling young weeds before they get a foothold. It’s a joy to observe the daily treasures nature has to offer.

Nigella bud just before opening
Nigella in all its beauty

When fall arrives in late October, my garden cleanup includes pruning, grooming and dead-heading perennial plants and shrubs. Last fall, I consciously let things go. This wasn’t born of laziness. In fact, it took some resolve to let things be. My propensity for organization and a tidy garden are nothing new, however my awareness of the benefits of a garden to all the visitors comes with a sense of responsibility.

Rose hips in the curb garden

Emerging growth on a miniature rose

Letting perennials go to seed means there are seeds available for birds passing through. Allowing a bit of leaf drop to cover the garden floor provides cover for some beneficial insects, while at the same time providing a natural mulch. Mulch keeps the soil warm and moist, while reducing weed growth and protecting roots from uneven temperatures. Leaves breakdown quickly, feeding the worms and improving the overall health of the soil.

Excess leaves, swept from the sidewalk and deck, made it into our compost bin. After working my way through three different compost systems over the past decade, I finally found one that I like.

Tessa likes to sit on the composter at dusk

New habits take time. I’m itching to get out there so I can prune some of the dead growth. I’ve had a little chat with my inner gardener, and together we’ve decided this is best. After all, the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere is only 49 days away.

I can hardly wait.

A Walk Through the Garden: The Drought Addition

It’s hard gardening in a drought.

It’s equally hard writing a blog about it without sounding all gloom and doom. (I’m saving my gloom and doom posts for Halloween).

Since we’ve all had it up to here with the drought, the heat, the save-the-air alerts and the raging fires here in California, writing about it  seems as drab as my former lawn.

Bouganvilla

Bougainvillea love the dry heat. Lush lawns are a thing of the past.

Today, I’m shaking things up a bit with a garden video show and tell.

I created the video tour using my mobile phone with my family’s help. Mike followed me around the garden and took video, and my son, Mac edited the clips for the final production.

Instead of tidying up before the guests arrive, I present to you my unadulterated, much-loved, brown around the edges garden.

Without further ado, Gardening Nirvana: The Drought Addition

Ho, hum, hot!

I’m a seventies gal. That is to say that I prefer temperatures hovering around 72 degrees with a slight breeze. I have British Aisle genes and a California address. Now that we’re approaching the hottest months of the year I must hide from the heat and sun. Tomorrow’s forecast: 101°F (38°C).

Gardening used to happen at the end of the day when I could safely venture back outdoors. As we settle uncomfortably into year four of the California drought, not much gardening is happening at all.

Planting pots with annuals on the deck and porch has long been a favorite ritual. This year I emptied all but a few pots, and planted what remained with succulents. They don’t need much watering, perhaps just once a month, but they don’t need much care either. Part of the joy of gardening is watching new growth, pinching back leaves, dead-heading flowers and making tiny bouquets. It’s fun to see an annual double in size over the course of the summer. This year I’m forgoing that tradition.

What remains of the lawn resembles a bed of straw. I’m happy to see the lawn go, but had hoped that by now we would have our native plants in place. I met with a designer in April who promised a two-week turnaround, but as we approach July we remain in limbo. I’ve completed the landscape rebate program application but I can’t submit it until I have both the list of plants and the specific irrigation components for the rebate.

drying grass

Drying grass, dead sweet peas

DSC_0189

The Statice likes the dry conditions and attracts butterflies. The sweet peas are a different story.

In the back garden, I sheet mulched half of the lawn thinking I would replant this spring. That too is in limbo, awaiting plans. For now that area is a patch of brown, albeit fertile soil.

drought garden

Half lawn, half dry patch, and an all-volunteer tomato crop

I didn’t plan a vegetable garden this year either, other than the raspberry vines that come back time and again without fuss. With no effort on my part, three tomato varieties self seeded: one grew under the Acer, several in the gravel surrounding the rotating compost bin and a few in the actual planting boxes. Mike added a drip line, so we could eek out some drops at the roots.

three tomato collage

Self-seeded tomatoes

A few weeks ago more tomatoes popped up in the patch of former lawn. They seem to be surviving without any water, something that doesn’t seem possible. I scratched the surface of the soil and it remains dry at least an inch down. The plants must be getting by on morning dew and perhaps some ground water. Amazing.

In the same sea of dirt stands a single pumpkin, ringed by several tomatoes. The plant’s leaves droop in exhaustion at the end of each day, and I whisper my understanding. I head to the swing and enjoy the green that remains while longing for a refreshing downpour.

self planted pumpkin and tomatoes

A pumpkin or squash surrounded by tomato plants

It’s survival of the fittest out there under the hot, dry early summer sky. Indoors this seventies gal needs to improve her attitude.