April 11, 2019

I started the morning with more weeding on the narrow western end of the front slope garden.  The deep pink geranium and Marguerite daisy at that end are already blooming away.  There is an invasive weed that has a tiny delicate orange flower at this time of year.  I left it for now – eventually I will get tired of it and clear it from the part of the garden.  The camellias are coming to the end of their blooming season, and I pulled the spent flowers.  A few remaining buds give hope for a a lingering goodbye for the season.

Two wild turkeys made their stately progress up the driveway, with a neighborly gobble or two. The wildflowers are still blooming along the far side of the driveway, tiny yellow buttercups joining the blue and white flowers.

I collected two buckets of small stones from the side of the roadway leading up the hill.  My focus was on fist-sized stones that will fill the area around the trough that I expect to have the most traffic.  I found a few larger white quartz stones that I could not resist.  The hill is a great place to gather stones because they are pushed to the sides when the roadway is graded.

The circle garden at the barn needed more weeding, of course.  I added soil amendment and Quick Start and planted the germander.  It should fill that space at three feet wide, and I was glad to read that it responds well to pruning.  I also applied a second dose of Quick Start to the gray rush and lantana from last week.  Intermittent showers are forecast for Monday that will help while I am in Oakland next week.

Helen was in her garden and gave me the nickel tour.  She has a dwarf lime alongside the house by the back porch, and I was glad to see that it is slow-growing.  We discussed pruning the older growth off the bottom of the shrub.  Helen also has grown two beautiful heucheras that seem to thrive in the shade that a tree provides.

By the time I reached Lowe’s the five bags of mulch for $10 special was over.  Plenty of black and red shredded bark remained, but the brown was cleaned out.  I found a pile of split open bags, a clerk taped them up and I took them off their hands at half off.   The brown is advertised to be color fast for a year.  We shall see.



April 10, 2019

Early this morning I cleared the patch of thistle on the slope below the retaining wall, close to fifty square feet.  The thistle and other invasive species were huge but shallow rooted.  So I return to where I started a year ago.  The battle against thistle is tenacious, and I am thankful for small victories.  Hopefully the majilita poppy will take hold and join the fight on that slope.  I applied Roundup to the cleared area for a bonus.

The front irrigation system is now operating once every two days for 20 minutes.  The triangle garden seems to receive water more abundantly than anywhere else.  The verbena is  coming back into bloom, all three colors.  The rhaphiolepis has lots of new growth and promises to bloom soon.  I cultivated the soil around the oleander and camellia in the western end of the upper front garden, watered and applied mulch.

I laid a 24 hour drip on the new dwarf lime tree.  I watered the California fuchsia, aenoium, ice plant and crape myrtle at the east end of the back yard.  No irrigation as yet.  The sprinklers on the lawn overperform, which helps with all the planter boxes but they do not reach to that far end.

Del kindly gave me a master gardener class at the Lone Wolf Dinner this evening.  He told me that the most common problem for gardeners is overwatering.  He suggested laying a pipe down the center of the trough to confirm proper drainage.  The holes that I drilled in the bottom of the trough were small enough to discourage gophers but may inhibit drainage.  Much of the soil in this area is heavy clay.  Containers may collect water if not properly drained.  Plants need air as much as they need water, and drooping plants may signal less water rather than more.  When I plant, I usually add a commercial organic soil amendment to break up the clay.  We also discussed alternatives for staking the cherry tomatoes that I will eventually plant in the trough.  At the end of his lecture Del asked if I could answer a legal question for him.

April 9, 2019

The California irises in the Oakland back yard are having an extraordinary year, like everything else in the plant world.  An abundance of blooms from the large white (Snowy Canyon) iris and the smaller pale butter yellow iris.

Life in Oakland would not be complete without a weekly trip to the Berkeley Hort.  I found a dwarf lime tree that is billed as the best variety for Western gardens.  It prefers soil that is moist but not wet, meaning that it may survive on drip irrigation and occasional supplemental water.  With a projected of height of two to three feet, it promises not to block the sweeping view of the countryside at the edge of the back lawn.

In the Dry Ideas section I found a teucrium (germander), with silver green foliage and blue violet flowers.  Drought tolerant and deer resistant.  I plan to reserve a large slice of the circle garden at the barn for the germander.  Once established, it can grow to six feet tall and three feet wide.  Fortunately, the plant description at the nursery said that it responds well to pruning.

Skies were overcast skies coming into the ranch in the late afternoon.  On the way in I bought six  cubic feet of herb and vegetable soil from the Ione Ace Hardware.  With the blessing of a long afternoon, I had time to plant the dwarf lime.  As my usual practice, I filled the planting with Quick Start fortified water, covered with soil and watered from the top.  Six cubic feet of commercial soil was enough to fill the half of the planter box kept aside for the lime tree and to top off the lemon tree in the other half.  I also applied fortified water to the kiwi aeonium before quitting for the night.

April 7, 2019

After church I came home to Oakland by way of Kettleman Lane through Lodi, and on over the levee road across the valley.  The orchards on Kettleman Lane bravely continue the  blossom trail for this season, and I once again remarked on the flatops.

I watered the containers in the front garden before I left for church this morning.  I also soaked the shrub rockroses at the far end of the front slope garden, having just fed them  the day before.  I am scouring the nursery ads for specials on mulch.  The front slope garden will take an enormous amount.

April 6, 2019

Sylvia is 19 today.  All four grandparents will be at her jazz concert tonight in Gainesville. I teased her in an email about her fencing competition.

Weeding in the early morning is now my routine. The birds fluttering between the trees and the garden beds provide a gentle ostinato. The thistle of course is back with a vengeance.

I buried two fertilizer spikes for each of the rockroses at western end of the slope garden.  I scratched the soil around the rockroses and generously watered them after fertilizing.  Last year the irrigation to that far edge of the slope garden was problematic.  The Roundup is doing its work; hopefully that area will soon be clear and ready for mulching.

I applied a second dose of Quick Start to all the new plants in the back box garden.  Penumbra 12.21, Full sun 4.10, Sunset 7.30

In response to my March 30 post Lucy sent a link to the Gaisma website, with sunrise, sunset, dusk and dawn times for Elk Grove, California.  Most intriguing to me was the chart that tracked the path of the sun, with precise longitudinal co-ordinates, during the seasons of the year.

The magenta salvia at western end of the upper border garden is the next to bloom. MJ pruned that plant almost to the bare ground in January, and it is responding happily.  To my surprise, the new foliage on the emerald and gold euonymus in the triangle garden is gray green.   I will be interested to see how it transitions to its traditional summer color.




April 5, 2019

I started with early morning bird songs.  I was out working at 7.00 because of rain forecast for later in the day.

The cotoneaster on the upper front border garden is blooming with small white flowers.  The companion on the mezzanine level is not far behind.

When we pruned the oleander in January, we left a bare branch ending in a one inch cut covered with pruning seal.  I was delighted to see buds growing from the bare stalk.  At this point the oleander appears to be pretty much unstoppable.

Every so often I add coffee grounds to the mulch that Mike created with his chipper.  Today was the first deploying that mulch.  I spread a wheelbarrow full  in the upper front garden bed with shallowest and poorest soil, on either side of the calendula box.  My procedure is to scratch and water the soil, lay the mulch and then soak in from the top.  I also added soil amendment around the bottle brush before laying the mulch.

I purchased a new 36 inch wooden barrel at Lowe’s and treated it with pruning seal.  I cleared the area just to the left where the sidewalk begins along the front of the house.  I  laid down weed block and large river stones around the barrel, commercially packaged courtesy of Lowe’s. I found a purple and a pink calibrachoa in the Garden Department, and nestled them into the barrel with standard potting mix.  The barrel does not have an irrigation drip and will need to be monitored.  At one point MJ planted thousand bells in the triangle garden that did not thrive.  I want to see if container planting will fare better.  With all the rain this year,  all the existing are flourishing and the new plants are hopefully digging well into the soil.

The day ended with bright sunshine.


April 4, 2019

Apparently the rain will hold off until the afternoon; another atmospheric river is due tomorrow.  With longer and milder days, I am back to working in the garden for an hour or so before breakfast.

I removed the larger weeds from widest section of the front slope garden. I applied Roundup on the invasive ground covers and fine feathery plants, digging out around existing plants to avoid collateral damage.  Clearing weeds is meant to prepare the ground for mulching – in a week or two I will turn over whatever remains, soak the ground and mulch away.

I laid the pink vinyl edging on the far side of the flagstones at the east end of the back yard.  Water runoff has eroded or washed away the decomposed granite between the stones closest to the downward slope edge.  The spikes did not settle in even with repeated hammering.  I added bricks to shore up the edging; further support may need to wait for the topsoil fill and the new bed just beyond the flagstones.  I added Paver Set to the eroded areas and topped with existing decomposed granite for color

I weeded the corner of the triangle garden nearest the rain barrel.  To my surprise and delight purple and white melissas seem to be self-starting in the far neglected end of that garden.

On the way out to Lowe’s I brought the watering can and applied Quick Start to the new plantings in the circle garden at the barn.  I returned from Lowe’s with three cubic feet of raised bed soil and planted the calendula box at the end of the day.

DSCN0880At the end of the summer Gerry used to collect the dried seeds from the spent blooms.  He had jars full of those seeds. I expect to turn the seeds over into the bed, hopefully to propagate.

Several months ago Mike brought his chipper up to the wood pile and created a generous mound of shredded mulch.  I have supplemented the mulch with coffee grounds and leaf mold from the gutters since then.   The first mulching was on either side of the calendula box, those areas of the upper front garden that have the shallowest and poorest soil and that receive the most hours of sun during the day.