August 3, 2019

Today I dug a out peninsula from edge of the large planter box to the deep scarlet crape myrtle. The grass came out in clumps; I will need to add soil and soil amendment from Lowe’s.  I will also apply a layer of Preen mulch for an attempt at weed control.  I removed the stone border and will replace it after I fill the area with topsoil, raising the stones more than an inch.  Those stones had sunk almost to disappearing  in a year and a half.

I dug out the main valve for irrigation water at the front of the house, looking for the source of the leak. Every place I dug quickly filled with water. Mike has found a filter to eliminate sediment in sprinkler heads.  The hope is to trap sediment at the main valve and eliminate the need to unplug and replace sprinkle heads all over the front garden.    The filter can be removed and flushed out periodically.  Mike will attach it when the repairs to the main valve are completed and secured. My contribution will be to reset the flagstones with weed block and paver sand when the plumbing work is done.

As my final project of the day, I dismantled the porch swing.  Mostly with vice grips.  Once I perfected a technique there were only a few screws holding up the frame.  The whole wreck is on its way to the dump.

August 2, 2019

In the early morning I removed the rotted and split trim pieces from the corporation yard fence beside the driveway.  Jerry never met a screw he didn’t like.  The bolts holding the trim pieces on the gate came off with a little ingenuity.  Mike will replace the gate as he did with the companion fence in the back yard.  The middle trim pieces will be replaced with a single piece of one by four, as we did with the lower trim piece.  I sanded the entire fence apart from the gate, and hope to prime and paint it before Mike adds new hardware.

I gave the front slope garden supplemental water, with extra love for the three new plants at the far end and the new portulaca.  The moisture meter on the sheltered camellia is not registering.  I did, however, note that  after watering the excess water seeped out the bottom of the container.  The camellia appears healthy and growing, and the ivy that I inherited with the container from Rancho Murieta is now unstoppable.

I hand watered the butter cream marigold and added Plant Starter.

The rose at the end of the line seems to receive more consistent water.  I do not know whether the dead growth among the roses is simply a function of the advanced season, or a sign of insufficient water. I applied supplemental water and buried a fertilizer spike by each of the three roses.

Spots continues to devour the potato shrub.

August 1, 2019

The butter cream marigold was water logged again this morning.  Its life has been a series of near-fatal tragedies –  half of the original plant burnt out and two later floods.  I removed all the water-infused soil and spread it on other plants.  As Mike suspected, the container had no drainage.  I drilled three new drainage holes, added new gravel, filled with all new topsoil and transplanted the marigold back into the container.

Mike found a bubbler head that will allow less drip water to the container; he came up in the cool of the evening and installed it.  That sprinkler head should solve the flooding problem – now I am worried that the plant will not receive enough water.  I will monitor over the next few weeks. My heart always has a specially reserved place for plants that are survivors.

PG&E tells me that we have already fewer days above 100 degrees this season.  Still time to make up the lack.

I do not know the breeding season and gestation period for quail.  In any event, Mama Quail was pecking out the garden this evening and strewing mulch and soil everywhere, and a tiny baby quail was beside her learning the knack.


July 31, 2019

I arrived at the ranch early afternoon.  Mike completed the irrigation lines to all the plants on the border garden off the back porch, a true work of art.  Mike also walked me through how he traced the water lines, and he has a schematic for this unique system.

We also traced the line of sprinkler posts along the front border garden.  I believe those posts were used to irrigate the lawn along that strip. They were capped when the lawn was dug up for the garden plants and flagstones.  Mystery valve number 4 – we were puzzled where it went.  Sure enough, we uncapped one of the posts and water poured out from valve number 4.  Currently one valve and one pipe line feeds the irrigation system for the entire front slope garden.  The thought is to tap into the number 4 line towards its far end and use it to irrigate the western half of the front slope garden.  Perhaps less surface area will translate into higher water pressure.

Mike is checking sprinkler heads in the front slope garden every week for silt.  The lake water clogs sprinkler heads at a great rate. Curiously, the back and side yard sprinklers do not share this problem.  Mike confirmed that lower rock rose was not receiving adequate water, and I will continue to supplement the irrigation drip while it recovers.

I found a new verbena at East Bay Nursery, white center with royal purple edges. It replaces the white verbena in the triangle garden that never thrived.  At the end of the day I added Italian oregano to the herb garden.

July 27, 2019

I was up early, Spots having his breakfast at 6.00. More potato shrub disappears.

I soaked all the plants in anticipation of a four day stay in Oakland.  The royal blue salvia is looking a little thin.  I buried a fertilizer spike near the rhaphiolepis in the triangle garden.  I need to investigate when the camellia is best fed.

I raked dead grass off the hillside, away from the back lawn and down the slope.  Not quite weed whacking but substantial clearing. The slope will not take my gas-powered weed whacker.

The sprinkler line to the terra cotta planter was out –  the main irrigation line pulled down the hill taking the sprinkler line with it.  I reposted the sprinkler in the planter and  added a bubbler to hold it in place.

The program for the next two months will be monitoring the irrigation system   I added Preen mulch add around the euphorbia and Japanese euonymus below the summer house, hoping for water retention. Still, a far cry from the days when I hacked through the overgrowth below the summer house to find the spigot.

The carpet roses are coming back handsomely, although they have yet to bloom.  I supplemented the water to them and to the matilija poppies.  Prayers for Leah who may not make it.  

I mowed the lawn, edged the sides without decapitating any lawn sprinkler and was out the door for Oakland at 11.30.

July 26, 2019

I am acclimating to high summer temperatures, taking in copious amounts of water.  Early this morning I trimmed back the correopsis and gooseberry and let them rest while Mike runs a new drip system.  The society garlic is also looking pekid.  I gave supplemental water to the two roses furthest down the irrigation line.

The spectacular new growth on the lemon and lime trees is a delight.  I pruned the dead wood off the lemon tree to encourage new growth and perhaps to shape it more compactly.

In the Succulents Department at Lowe’s I found a new portulaca to replace the dying cotoneaster in the narrowest wedge of the front slope garden.  When I removed the cotoneaster I found and repopoulated a gopher cage buried in the ground.  The protulaca received a dose of Plant Starter. The soil in that wedge of the garden appears to drain extremely well – important condition for a succulent.

I picked up four cases of Malbec from Fiddletown and discussed with Dethe planting of  South African plants, including succulents.  In his opinion,  Lowe’s should not sell certain plants. Succulents are not hardy below 35 degrees, as I could have read from the information card that came with the plants. Del knew of a bank of ice plant alongside a highway in Sacramento that was killed by a hard frost.  He suggested moving the succulents near the house for shelter in the coldest days of the year, letting the heat of the house and even of the sidewalk protect the plants from cold night air.  I have thermal tarps to cover the portulaca and senecio that are in the ground, and will keep them well watered through the winter.  

I redirected the sprinkler at the near end of the lawn, more onto the lawn and less onto the border.  Bare patches are appearing in the back lawn where the sprinklers to not reach. The deep crimson crape myrtle in the middle of the lawn has finally begun to bloom.

I inherited and much enjoy the ivy container from Rancho Murieta, but keeping it consistently watered is a challenge.  Mike will add an sprinkler line and bubbler to that container next week. For now, I added Moisture Control Potting Mix and soaked the ivy.  I also left an overnight drip on the Mexican daisy that is away from the sprinkler head

July 25, 2019

Another hot day, a few hours of work in the morning is all I can manage.

Mike and I sat on the picnic bench last week for a water break.  That bench has been at the bottom of the front slope garden as long as I can remember. I sanded off the lichen and dry rot and removed the center of three boards to sand the sides. I rubbed in the clear stain and sealer that I use on the back porch swing.  Now I just need to figure out how to put it back together again.

Potato shrub is a favorite with Spots.  He eats it as fast as I can prune it – leaves, stalks and all.  It all disappears from his pen.  He probably appreciates a little green in this long dry season.

The new euonymus, pittosporum and lantana received another application of Plant Starter.  I spread the rest of the Preen mulch on the circle garden and soaked it in.  I am so pleased that the plants are establishing themselves even in the height of the summer heat.

Mike and I both noted the spectacular sunset over the western hills.  I could not tell you why the cloud cover was low, but the horizon was infused with purples and reds and gold.