Six on Saturday: Garden Report

Since the California fires started a few weeks back, I haven’t spent as much time in the garden as I usually would. There’s just been too much smoke. Now the roses are overgrown; the drip lines around the citrus need work; half a dozen spent corn plants need to be pulled; and don’t even get me started on the bindweed. (Would I really have addressed all these things, even without the smoke? Well… a gardener can dream, right?!)

But. Two weeks ago there were two clear afternoons when the air quality index dropped below 100, and I snuck outside to pull weeds and put in seeds for my fall garden. I’m taking the lazy-gardener approach of direct-seeding everything, no transplants and no starting things in seed trays, just put in seeds, cross fingers, and see what happens. I’d expected everything to take weeks to germinate, but there were a few hot days, and I was wrong – the peas are taking off, and a few sprouts that I think are arugula and maybe some broccoli or collards (I’d like to get more reliable at labeling things, but that would require finding a Sharpie, which so far isn’t happening).

Tuesday night it rained, and the air here has been clear ever since. Every time I step outside, I take a deep breath and think how grateful I am for simply this. And today after a morning grocery run, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden, alternating between reading a book in a lounge chair and pruning the largest rose. Now I’m back indoors, and here are my six:

1. This is a lavatera maritima, a gorgeous tree mallow that I got the last time I was at a garden store; it’s still in a pot. In the morning its flowers stay closed, but they open in the afternoon to gorgeous purple blooms. I may get it in the ground tomorrow, or if not, next week. It’s going to replace a hibiscus which is struggling badly (I think the hibiscus needs more water and less clay-ish soil than is realistic here).

2. A lovely pink rose on the largest overgrown rosebush. The bush itself is about eleven feet tall and, although not visible in this photo, pretty much entirely blocks the garden path. Time for the spent blooms & branches to go. I started pruning it today, but it’s more than a one-afternoon project. I think cutting it back will increase direct sunlight hours for the vegetable garden over winter, too.

3. A tomato experiment that didn’t quite work. These are Thessaloniki, grown from seed. No idea what’s ailing them, but clearly something is – and even though it’s mid-September, these are the only tomatoes this plant set. Next to it are some basil plants going to seed. Turns out I didn’t actually need seventeen basil plants (!), so I’ve been letting some of them go. The other tomato is also Thessaloniki; so far it only has green tomatoes. I may give up on their ripening and just harvest and fry them up. If anyone reading this has a great recipe for fried green tomatoes, I’d be delighted to hear it!

4. On the other hand, a tomato experiment that definitely worked! These Chadwick Cherries, also grown from seed and direct-seeded under row covers, just keep giving & giving. If they look at little odd at the moment, well, that’s just ash from the fires (sigh). It washes off.

5. New sprouts! Peas in the first photo, arugula in the second. Next to the peas is the last of my earlier-season baby kale. It got harvested and turned into a salad slightly after this photo.

6. A raspberry bush that has, for reasons mysterious to me, decided to set berries now, after none whatsoever earlier in the year. Um…. Maybe these will ripen before winter? I’m not convinced.

It’s hard to believe it’s halfway through September already. I’m grateful for today’s warm weather, and the predicted similarly warm days coming over the next week.

Whereever you are – I hope you are able to find some good time out-of-doors. Happy Saturday to you, and clear skies, and clear air.


The Six-on-Saturday gardening thing is hosted by The Propagator, which also has links to other gardeners’ blogs. Especially in days without much travel, I’ve been enjoying reading about & seeing photos of other gardeners’ gardens around the world.

Smoke

I had the idea that I’d do a lot of gardening this week. I had good stuff planned: weeding, pruning back the takeover rosebush from the path, fixing up the orchard drip irrigation lines, fertilizer on the citrus trees.

But.

This.

There’s smoke on the horizon and if I go outside, I cough. The air smells like a campfire gone wrong. One person I know has evacuated, and another got a warning that didn’t follow through; some others from my poetry group, who I am less in touch with outside our monthly get together, I worry about. I worry about family, too, and the power getting cut, and all the old growth redwoods in Big Basin, and the beautiful buildings that got built the last time things were really bad, back when there was the WPA. I worry about my favorite parks, about the trees and bobcats. I hope, nervously, that the mountain lions are okay.

I worry.

I hope everyone – and although I know it’s impossible, at least as much all the trees – is okay.

Six on Saturday: August 15

I recently discovered a collection of garden bloggers writing Saturday posts about six garden-related things. This week I thought I’d join in.

Today the weather is perfect. It’s ninety degrees in the shade, dry and bright, likely to reach one hundred by midafternoon. Six summery things I’m enjoying in my garden right now:

1 – This Russian Sage. Drought-loving (I haven’t watered it at all! and I think our last rain was in March), pale purple flowers, delicate foliage, looks properly Mediterranean. Last winter I dug it up and moved it back from the edge of the driveway. I didn’t know if this would kill it, but it’s thriving. I’m thinking of planting a few more of these this year. So pretty! And the bees love it.

2 – Isn’t this a neat caterpillar? It’s one of many hanging out on this native Californian flower I’ve forgotten the name of. In spring and early summer these plants are covered in yellow flowers that later turn into fuzzy brown seed pods. I hope this caterpillar is a beneficial insect, doing a little better because it has access to this plant! But if it’s one that most gardeners would consider a pest – well, this part of the yard is pretty much in a ‘see what happens’ state anyway.

3 – My baby nectarine tree, planted from a pit two or three years ago. Will it produce fruit? If it does, will the fruit be as delicious as the parent? No idea. Planting nectarines from seed is apparently hit and miss. But look how healthy it looks!

4 – Apples ripening. So hard not to pick them early!

5 – Visually speaking, the Platonic ideal of garden sweet corn. This makes me happy in a way I can’t reasonably explain. This is the second crop; I planted two. The first is just about finished, so the timing of this is great. I planted this second crop where I’d previously had peas, and its leaves are greener – healthier soil, maybe? I’m curious to see if the flavor varies. This is the first year I’ve planted corn, and in my determination not to harvest too early, I picked the first ear too late! It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Luckily it didn’t all ripen all at once, and I got better at judging as I went along. I am determined that when this batch is ripe, I will be right there waiting to eat it!

6 – Sungold cherry tomatoes, a consistent favorite since I first grew them six or seven (!) years ago. This batch isn’t quite ripe because I ate all the ripe ones!

Happy gardening to all, and happy summer if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere!

For other garden bloggers’ Six-on-Saturday posts, visit The Propagator, which I in turn discovered by way of herbalblessingsblog.wordpress.com.