by Melody Kendall
One of the many things that I enjoy about gardening is that each day brings a new adventure while still following a schedule or plan.
• Walking my yard and noticing in a gravel area small weed seedlings and a mushroom structure today when yesterday the area was totally devoid of vegetation. All this appeared overnight!
• Watching seedlings pop up in my garden beds and trying to decide if they are weeds or something that I planted. Weed seedlings get a little better chance to grab hold in my planting beds because I dither trying to remember just what seeds I spread in that area and and err on the side of caution just in case I planted them.
• Remembering to watch the weather and when a freeze is predicted cover my citrus and bougainvillea. Sometimes the neighbors are treated to a PJ clad figure with a headlamp shaking out multi-colored sheets at midnight.
• When we have unseasonably dry weather remembering to water. Once I thought it would be easier to just turn on the irrigation. I discovered two weeks later during a rainstorm that I had forgotten to turn it off again. My forgetfulness was reflected in the water bill and my husband was not very happy.
• Keeping on top of the weeds during the winter, especially in the rain is not a personally valuable experience, but if you wait too long those pesky weeds are already flowering and passing their seeds in the wind. The nemesis of my landscape is Hairy or Little Bittercress (Cardamine oligosperma). This weed seems to grow and mature in record time and the vehicle for seed dispersal is to pop and fling their seeds in a wide radius. Unfortunately, by the time I get to the sweet spot of good weather plus being in the mood to pull weeds this variety of weed is usually poised to explode their seeds with the slightest touch on my part. I have received a mouthful of seeds more than once as I bend over pulling out these weeds.
• Choosing my seeds for planting in the spring. This is a fun way to occupy time and may require many happy hours of seed catalog perusal. This is a perfect chore for a rainy day.
• Winter is down time for most gardening tools so this is the time to do annual upkeep on much-used implements. This means cleaning, sharpening, and organizing. I also check each tool and decide if they should be removed from service or just require a little TLC. If it's time for a tool to go, I retire the tired tool with all the proper pomp and circumstance, thanking it for its service. Then I get to go to the hardware/gardening store and spend a happy hour replacing it and, more times than not, come home with a new, something I can't live without, must have, tool as well.
• Cleaning and sharpening your gardening tools is very important both each time you use them and on a yearly maintenance schedule. I take one day a year and spend a couple of hours caring for my garden helpers. My cleaning supplies are all in a storage bin ready to go. Latex gloves, goggles, rags, sandpaper, wire brush and a sharpening stone. I use vegetable oil rather than a petroleum based product for lubrication to do my part to protect the environment.
• Once the tools are all clean and sharpened they need to be stored properly. In past years I didn't have a designated tool storage area and just stacked them in an area of an old garden shed. This was problematic as the shed often leaked and, even though the tools were protected by oil, the moisture tended to cause rust on the blades.
• I now have a short shelving unit with clear drawers installed (we had retired an old refrigerator and had saved all the clear drawers) to hold various items like gloves and hand tools. Above that I mounted a peg board with multiple hooks for my glasses, hats, knee pads, etc. On the opposite wall I have a recycled mop board nailed onto the 2x4's and hung the larger hand tools like hedge clippers and loppers. I also hung my up little folding camp chair that I use so that I don't have to get all the way down on the ground when working in the yard. In the far corner I used an old re-purposed metal laundry bag frame to store all my long handled garden tools upright. With the blades up I can see at a glance just which one I need and easily pull it out. I finished the set-up with two push-on battery operated lights (in case I need to visit my new shed at night, getting out those sheets to cover the citrus) and a small radio.
Ah, the winter months – a time for adventures and scheduled maintenance. And this year a new garden shed with all my tools organized – Nirvana in my book.
Master Gardeners are following recommended social distancing guidelines that keep everyone safe, Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. or phone at 707-253-4143. Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.
Visit our website: napamg.ucanr.edu to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.
Photo credits: Melody Kendall
UCANR Hairy or Little Bittercress http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/WEEDS/bittercress.html
UCMG San Diego Co. Tool Care https://www.mastergardenersd.org/garden-tool-care/