perspective | weather

I’ve been spending this gray, rainy morning reading other gardeners’ blogs. A lot of these are written from the UK and Europe, which right now seem to be having a cold snap and at any rate are much, much colder than here. So I’m reading about frost, and blackened leaves, and I look out my window at the overcast sky and the occasional drift of light filtering through the clouds, and contemplate whether it is or is not too mildly damp and drizzly to walk a lazy half block up the road to mail a letter to my friend L. (Digression: one upside of the pandemic is that L, a high school friend with whom I used to exchange letters during summer vacations, & I started writing real physical letters to each other again.) While I read, I consider how much I admire and enjoy snow, and admire and enjoy the crisp frost of a colder-than-here winter morning, and at the same time I love sun and find it hard to imagine what would actually be too much time out of doors. Years ago, during the six months I spent in York during my junior year of college, it started out as winter and there was very definitely snow. I went hiking in the snow with a student group on weekends, and I walked the two miles kilometers from my residence hall to class during the week, regardless of weather. I am not sure if this was because I didn’t want to spend money on the bus, or was puzzled by the bus schedule, or maybe there wasn’t a bus, or maybe I simply preferred to walk. I remember kicking my boots through the cold white drifts and stamping down the half-melted-and-refrozen crunch underfoot. I remember the fascination of the bleak gray sky. I suspect I was often cold, but I don’t remember wanting to change anything (this was when I was much younger, before I learned how to buy a winter coat, and that “made of wool” is not the same thing as “warm”).

Anyway. Weather. I am so grateful that yesterday was warm and sunny and I spent the afternoon digging in the dirt, and then I had a giant glass of fresh-squeezed navel-orange-and-Persian-lemon juice afterwards.

And I’m only a little bit jealous both of those with snow, and those growing tropical blooms in Florida and soaking up sun in the southern hemisphere!

Sun & rain: six-on-Saturday garden update

The day started with a low gray drizzle, mist over the southern hills and the sound of dripping echoing in the drainpipes. Mid-morning, however, the weather cleared. I spent the afternoon outside, doing something I think I’d intended to do way back in maybe December: cutting down & digging in my first attempt at cover-cropping.

Here it is, to start off six-on-Saturday in my garden this week:

  1. Cover crop in the largest vegetable bed. This is Kodiak mustard, planted late last fall.
Why is there that odd gap along the irrigation dripline? No idea!
After cutting down with the weed-whacker, which happily had enough battery charge for this.
And finally, after digging in.

This took me about two, maybe two and a half hours altogether, including a bit of weeding before the cutting. That feels pretty good, as I suspect last year it would have been more like six hours. Partly I am just more practiced, I think, and partly I think my new workout routine is paying off in increased not-getting-tired-ness, as well as more upper body strength for shovel-wielding.

2. Arugula going wild as usual! The two varieties I planted, ‘Runway’ and ‘Runaway’ do seem to differ, despite my initially wondering if one was just a typo of the other. One has flatter, broader leaves; the other is spikier. I prefer the broad-leaved variety. The flavor is wonderful, and it does a better job substituting for things like lettuce, which so far I have been completely unsuccessful at growing.

3. To transition this post from edibles to non-edibles, here’s a maybe-edible: this season’s regrowth of the wild artichoke (or possibly cardoon), growing in the lawn. It isn’t producing any buds as yet.

I think I’ve posted this artichoke in other seasons too. It keeps coming back, and while I’m spending so much time at home, I’ve been interested to see what the artichoke does next.

4. Also non-edible, despite the soon-to-be amazing fragrance: jasmine blooms, just beginning to pink up.

5. Mystery daffodils. These were here when I moved in, so I don’t know what kind they are, but they smell amazing! They seem to come up more enthusiastically some years than others. Water? Weediness of the garden bed? Not sure.

6. And last but not least, more mystery flowers-from-bulbs. I always forget these are going to come up, and then – there they are. (The dove statue was previously attached to a precariously concreted-on birdbath on the corner of this bed. The birdbath broke, but I saved the dove.)

Happy Saturday & happy gardening to you! For more six-on-Saturday garden blog posts, check out The Propagator’s blog.

The garden, late January, 2021 (!)

Here it is already, late January, the last Saturday in the month. Over the past several weeks I’ve thought about and not written half a dozen blog posts: on the new year, on the end of 2020, on the US presidential inauguration, on poetry, on books I’m reading, on the garden, on working, on planning for unknown outcomes. I took three and a half weeks off over the holidays, and felt fortunate that if there was going to be a drought, it coincided with my time off and I could go hiking. I went back to work (virtually) mid-month, and last week, finally – finally! – it began to rain. Rain is good news, as California is way below where we ideally would be for this season’s water.

So. Given the rain, this week I’ve only done a little bit in the garden – but here are six things nonetheless!

1. Narcissus in the front yard. They smell wonderful. I planted them a couple of years ago, and they have proved resilient to drought, rainstorms, digging up the yard because there was an issue with the drain, and neglect. Narcissus are wonderful.

Slightly odd lighting because I took this after dark, but they really are lovely!

2. The ceanothus (California native lilac) planted just over a year ago is sprouting new baby leaves, and a few flowers are just barely beginning to purple up.

3. Late last summer I planted mustard as a cover crop in one of the vegetable beds. It’s well past time to cut it down & dig it in, but so far I haven’t. Also, the edge of the path is beginning to fail. It’s edged with incredibly splintery thin wood trim; I’m thinking stone whenever it actually becomes top of the list to fix.

4. In the realm of edibles, the broccoli have gone full-on to flowering. I’d never seen broccoli flower before I planted it this year – it’s so pretty. The stems become inedibly tough once they start to flower, but as can be seen in this photo, the bees completely love it.

5. The mandarins are ripe, and beginning to fall. Right now we have these, navel oranges, and Persian lemons all in abundance – more citrus than I can use. I’m juicing it by the bowlful, and enjoying it that way. Last year I learned that there’s no upside to leaving citrus on the tree, as there is with apples; they don’t get sweeter, they just dry out.

6. The monster rosebush is starting to set new leaves. I spent the afternoon pruning it – fourteen feet tall, I think, before I started, and this is the second go-round this season. Fourteen feet is a lot for a rosebush, definitely taller than I wanted it to be, and it was threatening to reach twenty this summer if I didn’t do something. So. Pruned it has been! I think this is the first year I’ve actually finished pruning this rose, rather than just getting tired & giving up. Victory!

And so ends (or almost) January. I’m so glad it’s finally raining! Best wishes to everyone reading this – I hope you’re finding brightness in your day.

And for more garden updates from a variety of places, visit The Propagator’s blog, where other gardeners post their updates from their gardens too.