- Author: Cheryl A Potts
Those of us of a certain, vague age know--really know--time speeds up as we mature. Another birthday, already!? Christmas shopping, already!? I just put my fall/Halloween decorations away, and it is time to plan my family Easter dinner, dye eggs, and place those cute bunnies in appropriate places throughout the garden, already!?
So we arrive home after a week of summer RV camping and the garden is overflowing with zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and chard; but what is in my mailbox? Seed catalogs telling me it is time to start my fall/winter garden. Already!?
My bell peppers are just coming in, but I am being told it is time to plant broccoli. A ton of chard is available in my garden, but I am being told to get those kale seeds in the ground, not to mention twelve varieties of lettuce. Apparently, I need to get beets in the ground where my egg plant is just getting ready to hatch.
When does a veggie gardener rest? When can I just take a break from planting, picking, watering, mulching, composting, planning, pruning?
At the beginning of every spring, looking forward I say, "no winter garden this year. Let's take a break". Every fall, still looking forward, I say, "no summer garden this year. Let's take a break". My husband just looks at me, smiles, and says, "Give me a break."
So which garlic should I plant this winter?
- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
Cool, sunny spring mornings bring a visual and aural symphony to my neighborhood. Just the other day, I saw and heard this variety of fine-feathered friends in and around our yard:
- Harsh, assertive yet beautiful scrub jays. I can usually find my cat by following the yelling scrub jays.
- Twitchy, flighty but amazingly versatile mockingbirds. We have the world’s loneliest mockingbird in our area. He goes through his repertoire of songs 24/7, in hopes of finding a mate. Alas, no luck yet.
- Lovely, perfectly named mourning doves, always in a pair. Their coordinated flights are graceful yet pensive.
- Pert and perky finches and sparrows, arguing over a cache of ants or seeds.
- Chatty, glossy black and super smart crows and ravens. They do sky-high battle with the owls and hawks. Quite a sight.
- Acrobatic nuthatches, defying gravity by turning sideways and upside down on vertical surfaces as they forage.
- Hummingbirds of all kinds, glittering in the sun while they forage at the salvias. I have had hummers stop by the business end of my hose, just 2 feet away from my hand, as I water out back. What a gift! Stunning little creatures.
- Hawks, mostly red-taileds, riding the thermals and screaming their primeval cries. They often cruise by our chicken run, always hopeful of a quick fly-thru meal.
- California quail — lots of quail — sending out a sentinel, then the covey emerging, crossing the street and setting up shop in the shrubs. There’s a daily commute, across our street in the morning, then a return trip around dusk.
I am not a birder, but I sure do enjoy watching the local winged wonders. What about your yard? If it’s devoid of chirps and screeches, perhaps you need to put in some bird-friendly landscaping. This guide offers plenty of suggestions to get you started, if you’re closer to the Bay. Here’s another that is more specific to the Sacramento Valley.
I know birds can be voracious pests to backyard gardeners, especially if you’re growing fruits or nuts. Heck, we had to build Fort Knox-like frames of bird netting for our raised beds in order to protect our tomatoes. This publication is full of good ideas to keep the birds away from your future harvest.
- Author: Marian I Chmieleski
Spring is such a happy time with flowers bursting out all around that I always want to get into the act and replant the large terra cotta pot for my front porch. However, last week as I looked under the laundry room sink and saw the long-abandoned Easter baskets from my daughters' youth, I had a new idea. Why not use those baskets as my planters?
Because my locally-owned nursery seems to be closed, I headed down to a local big-box hardware store with a garden department. I knew I wanted to line the baskets with something that would let water drain, but keep the soil in. My idea was to get sphagnum moss, but I found something even more interesting: a coco fiber liner intended for hanging planters. With that in my basket I headed for the bloom aisles.
Recalling all the beautiful planters I've seen in Sunset Magazine, I wanted something a little taller for the center of each basket with smaller flowers around it. There were lots of good candidates: primroses (Primula), cyclamen, French marigolds (Tagetes patula), pansies (Viola wittrockiana), ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus) and Kalanchoes (Kalanchoe Calandiva)--but you could use anything that suits your fancy. Just be sure to choose flowers that have similar requirements in terms of water and light. I happened to choose a couple of the Kalanchoes and lots of pansies, and ended up with 4" pots of Kalanchoe because that's all they had, but you only need buy the 6-pack size. They will fill in beautifully in no time at all.
The coco liner was easy to tear into pieces to fit each basket. Then the plants went in. I added some compost from my backyard pile to a commercial potting mix and filled in around the plants. The finished baskets are so cute on my front porch. With quite a few pansies leftover I saw some very small baskets at the craft store for only 99 cents. Who could resist? So you'll see by the pictures, I now have porch baskets and table baskets and am eager for guests to arrive to enjoy my festive decor. Happy spring!
- Author: Janet Snyder
My poor garden is so confused! It is November, correct? I was outside, in shorts and sandals, watering my thirsty plants in the heat this week. So many of the trees have not turned color and started to drop leaves yet. I'm usually doing some pretty heavy raking of leaves by now. I'm wondering if and when fall will arrive here in California.
In spite of the unusual weather, I did do some random fall chores outside. I went ahead and took out the tomato plants, picked the pumpkins and discarded the vines in anticipation of the possible upcoming frost next weekend. The morning glories have continued to bloom every day, although not as profusely. Even so, I pulled down the vines and tossed them in the compost bin. Various perennials were in need of deadheading, so I took care of that. What leaves are falling were raked up, as I don't want to encourage the various fungus and bugs that love their habitat to take over (I have enough trouble keeping rust and black spot at bay as it is on my roses!). I mowed the grass, hoping that if we do have a frost, it'll be the last time I have to mow until springtime.
Turning to my patio, the outdoor furniture is now all under cover from the rains. The summer annuals in the pots were still looking pretty, but I'm ready for winter annuals. So…I pulled out the salvia, petunias, and begonias, cleaned the pots, added fresh soil, and put in some beautiful pansies and cyclamen. With the freshly picked pumpkins next to the pots, it looks much more like fall on the patio.
I hope fall arrives soon!
- Author: Janet Snyder
It's finally here! In spite of the rather mild winter we have had here in Solano County, it's nice to herald the arrival of March and the coming of spring. We are almost ready to close the book on another winter, but we do still have a few more weeks of "official" frost season. That said, it is just so hard to see the daffodils blooming, the blossoms on the flowering trees in my backyard, and not go outside and put in a whole batch of new plants. I am holding off, however, until the official beginning of spring (March 20th this year). After that date, I'm willing to take a gamble and start planting.
This year I have a whole new learning curve to work with. Up until recently, my gardens were full sun for the better part of the day. I have three flowering plum trees ('Krauter Vesuvius') in my garden that have been growing larger every year. Last summer, I noticed several roses, pineapple sage, society garlic, and coreopsis 'Moonbeam' were trying to reach for more sunlight, and it dawned on me that they were receiving more shade than sun. Now I am having to decide what to move, what to shovel prune, and what to plant in shade. I never had to shop for shade plants, and now here I am, researching and planning a whole new garden!
I am actually a little excited about some of the plants I have found. Camellias, columbines, Chinese lanterns, Japanese maples, liriope, bleeding heart are just a few of the plants I've never grown before and now have the opportunity to do so. We are so fortunate to have the resources offered to us on the California Garden Web (www.ucanr.org/sites/gardenweb) for gardening in the Golden State.
It just goes to show you that a gardeners work is never done!