- Author: Martha White
Imagine, if you would, a garden filled with tiny white and pink butterflies dancing and fluttering over the rest of the plants? That image, of whirling butterflies, is the nickname for a reliable, drought tolerant plant that is thriving in my garden: Gaura. This North American wildflower had been left to grow in its wild, natural state in Texas until the 1980's, when the cultivar ‘Siskiyou Pink' was developed. Since then, several additional varieties have emerged as popular choices for the home gardener interested in easy-care, pretty, flowering plants.
The gaura has a compact, clump-forming growth habit, with moderate growth to 2 to 3 feet tall. It will reliably bloom from mid-spring through summer, with wiry arching stems, delicate pink or white flowers blooming along those stems, only a few at a time. In our mild-winter area of California, the gaura will appreciate being cut back for the winter, and will thank you by giving an even prettier display of dancing “butterflies” the following spring. This favorite of gardeners will appreciate full sun, and good drainage, and is not often attacked by insects or diseases. It develops a long taproot, which helps it to be drought-tolerant, but also means it does not like to be moved from place to place. An extra bonus is that this beautiful hard-working plant will also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.
In my search for pretty gauras for my garden, I visited our lovely local garden shop, Morningsun Herb Farm, on Pleasants Valley Road on the west side of Vacaville. If you have never stopped there, and you love all things gardening, you will enjoy your visit! The varieties of gaura I selected are ‘Indian Feather', ‘Ballerina Pink', and ‘Siskiyou Pink'. My photos will hopefully give you an idea of the delicate stems and leaves, and the beauty of these tiny 1”dancing flowers.
- Author: Lanie Keystone
If you are looking for a demonstration garden that helps define the essence of a Mediterranean garden, then Turtle Bay Botanic Native Garden in Redding is a fine place to start. The garden is a young one, but we can tell that it will grow into a lovely representation of each of the world's Mediterranean climate zones. Moreover, they have planned the garden to include a wide range of biological diversity—as well as some delightful public sculptures.
As the garden's interpretation points out, the world's Mediterranean climate zones make up just 2% of the entire land mass of our planet. It's easy to forget that small percentage since we live and breathe such a habitat!
The characteristics of these Mediterranean zones are: a) they are each on the western side of continents; b) they are each 30-45 degrees north and south of the equator; and c) they each have rain in winters and warm-hot, dry summers. There are 5 Mediterranean regions which, in order of size are: 1) the Mediterranean Basin—(which includes areas in 15 countries on 3 continents, (60%); 2) southwestern & southern Australia, (22%); 3) western California, 10%; 4) central Chile, (5%); and 5) the western Cape of South Africa, (3%).
The survival adaptations amongst the native plant life that grow in each region are very similar, too. Some of these fascinating traits could be-- tough, waxy, mostly evergreen leaves; gray foliage which reflects sunlight; slightly hairy covering on the leaf to reduce moisture loss; re-sprouting and reseeding from late summer and early fall fires; or summer-deciduous bulbs, corms, tubers, and rhizomes such as daffodils or irises.
When we acknowledge and understand the unique characteristics of our Mediterranean climate and the kinds of plant life that thrive in it, we are able to make wiser choices. In choosing from the vast, varied and exciting world of plants “native” to our Mediterranean zone, we create a garden that truly stays in harmony with our own special region and its needs.
- Author: Tina Saravia
As we get more summer days in the high 90's, with less potable water available, and more expensive water bills, I'm looking more into Food Forest gardening.
What is Food Forest gardening?
Imagine being in a forest with tall trees and small trees, shrubberies, ground cover. It does not get watered. The leaves fall on the ground and act as mulch. The animals and other organisms digest the the mulch and turn it into fertilizer. It's a sustainable way of existence. Now imagine if all those plants are edible. That is Food Forest Gardening.
According to Wikipedia, Forest Gardening in the temperate climate was pioneered by horticulturist Robert Hart. He did not invent the system, but was inspired by those who came before him. In turn, he inspired Bill Mollison, one of the pioneers of the term permaculture, to adopt Hart's seven-layer system as a common permaculture design element.
So we ask, what is the seven-layer system?
It starts with the ‘Canopy layer' consisting of the original mature fruit trees; then the ‘Low-tree layer' or under story, of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks; ‘Shrub layer' of fruit bushes such as currants and berries, and so on... Below is a an image I found on the Permaculture Research Institute website showing the 7-Layers.
Image source: Permaculture a Beginner's Guide, by Graham Burnett
I still have a lot to learn about food forest gardening. Here's another useful link I found from Cornell University. http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/info/pubs/FC%20factsheets/FCFSforestgardening.pdf
Meanwhile, here's my attempt on creating a food forest in my own backyard. I don't quite have the seven layers covered but it's still a young food forest.
In the Center is a 3-year old Fuyu persimmon tree (Diospyros kaki) to the left is a Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), to the right of the persimmon are some walking onions (Allium ×proliferum), in the front is a sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and a few other struggling herbs and a couple of fertilizer makers.
- Author: Betty Homer
I recently took up cycling again after a six-year hiatus. In my research of Bay Area rides, I stumbled across the Fifth Annual Silicon Valley Tour de Coop which is take place on Saturday, September 17, 2016. This fun ride has its riders traveling from homestead to homestead in the South Bay to view chicken coops, bee hives, and people's private gardens. It appears that the actual route and precise hours of the tour are in the process of being finalized and will likely be posted in the coming weeks so check the link below often. Although it is a trek down to Silicon Valley from Solano County, it is nevertheless a great opportunity to view people's private homesteads for free and in a setting and climate different from our own. Although the tour is free and is self-guided, you will need to register for the tour via Eventbrite, and the link can be found on the tour's webpage. Also, for those who do not cycle, you may also travel from site to site by car. For further information, please see https://tourdecoop.org/
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
Posh Squash, a community garden on the northern California coast at Sea Ranch has existed since 1975. A resident donated the one-acre site. An unlikely plot of land, it was a steep hillside, rocky soil, a long walk from the road through thickets to access. The deer roam freely through the area along with voles, moles, raccoons and other hungry critters.
Over 4 decades later, this garden has evolved into an organized, sustaining, community garden in every sense of the word. Sea Ranch has permanent residents, part-time residents, and seasonal visitors. Group meetings were held, rules established, a board elected and then the real work began. There have been 700 gardeners volunteering since the first shovel of soil was turned.
Trees were removed, rocks excavated, water systems designed, compost bins built, and plans/rules established. The hillside was terraced and raised beds were built.
You will find brassicas, legumes, alliums, and cucurbits in abundance, but no artichokes, okra, eggplant or corn. Why were some plants chosen and not others? The history of Posh Squash is the answer. What is planted is what has worked in the past and what is not planted is what did not work. The gardeners live within the potentials and limitations of the ridge top acre's soil, terrain and micro climate. “The garden proposes, nature disposes.”
Posh Squash is a collective and the gardeners share work and produce. It requires teamwork and offers individuality. I will continue to write about Posh Squash and the unique garden that is feeding a community of participants.
My blog on June 15th was about the neighborhood garden planted in a vacant backyard in my neighborhood. Our motivation was to have fresh vegetables during the summer while the empty house was going through the probate process.
The lots on our street are small, from 40'x140', to 50'x140. Most yards have large trees, assorted plants and small areas for gardens. Our lot is filled with a house, separate garage and garden cottage. We have 3 peach trees, a cherry tree, 2 apple trees, 40 roses and an assortment of plants including two small vegetable gardens. The appeal of a separate garden in virgin soil with full sun was appealing. Being able to share vegetables with other neighbors has been interesting. When walking outside, I will find a zucchini or cucumbers on our front porch. I'm envisioning a mailbox to exchange recipes using the garden produce.
Had to add this bit of humor. One of our neighbors was using a hoe to weed the garden and accidentally severed several watermelons the size of baseballs. No one could complain as he was doing the job all of us had planned to do and never got around to it. There will still be watermelons to share.
New definition. Hoeing: A manual method of severing fruits from stems of newly planted vines.