Six pollinators and their chosen plants. This year, we are seeing an increase in quantity and variety of pollinators in comparison with years past. Particularly exciting has been the unprecedented number of swallowtail sightings. The maturation of the garden plants and the introduction of a large number of natives have likely contributed to the development of a more attractive habitat.
What is it about witnessing these interactions that is so rewarding? The garden seems more fully alive. The complex relationships between soil and plants and animals that make gardening so endlessly fascinating are manifest. I have the opportunity to share enjoyment of the same space with other organisms, and that sharing establishes a deeper empathetic connection. The garden educates my neighborhood about the delights of landscaping for wildlife, without pesticides or herbicides. Witnessing the increase in wildlife as the garden develops demonstrates the healing difference that each of us can make, even on a small scale.
1. The back area has been cleared of weeds, and a new fence is going up. I have planted a wedge-shaped bed, primarily with native perennials, though a few exotic shrubs have been used to frame the area (see below). I will now be adding another layer of ornamental non-natives.
2. Stream bank continues to be shorn of knotweed on a monthly basis to ensure that the natives planted there are receiving enough light.
3. The verge continues to blossom, with California poppies and larkspur giving way to goldenrod and aster.
4. The unidentified opuntia grown from 2 pads picked up around the neighborhood (with permission) are blooming.
5. The chollas grown from cutting are starting to put out new growth.
I am joining the Propagator and other gardeners from around the world for another Six.
The recent rain has been such a relief after our dry winter and early spring. The water level in the creek is higher; the garden is looking refreshed; the mountains are lush with spring growth, and their heights are snowy. The festive blooms of madrones festoon the freeway. Manzanita blooms have faded, their bell shapes replaced by plump berries – green with a tinge of deep red. The frost-free days of early summer are almost upon us.
Giant cape restio (Rhodocoma capensis). Despite being stressed by freezing temperatures and hastily transplanted into a barrel to benefit from the warmth of the house earlier this spring, the restio is putting out new growth – the lovely reed-like spears from which its lime green, feathery foliage will unfurl.
I admit my lack of experience when it comes to raising plants from seed, which is equalled only by the depth of my ignorance with regards to growing fruits and vegetables. My fascination with perennials has led me to neglect these critical skills for far too long and resulted in countless blunders, wasted resources, and a loss of possible pleasure.
And that brings us to this season, in which I resolve to rectify this sad state of affairs. In taking on this challenge, I hope to remain patient with myself and enjoy the learning process.
Growing from seed. I do have a decent LED light setup, heating mat, and propagator sets (water tray, seed cells, and clear cover), as well as a small, dedicated area for this purpose. Of seeds I have far, far more than I need. They are roughly organized into vegetables, flowers (annual and perennial), and paper bag full of a jumble of unlabeled envelopes of seeds I have collected on walks. I have been using a seedling mix acquired at the local Grange.
Lately I have been sowing the cells with 12 different types of seeds. Labeling has always proven challenging for some reason. I have tried stickers (soggy) and recycled plastic labels (interfere with closure of propagator cover). The most recent innovation is simply labeling one side of the tray with a short plastic tag that reads “1,” while the other side is labeled “12” and then maintaining a separate list of which plants have been sown into each numbered row. This system worked well enough until it was time to transplant seedlings into larger pots with more nutrient rich soil to grow on. As you will likely not be surprised to hear, this resulted in a plethora of unlabeled seedlings. The solution is pretty self-evident.
I had been turning the LED lights on immediately after sowing, but recently decided to wait until the first seedling emerges before doing so. I had also been keeping the heated mat on even after the seeds germinated. Research suggested that this was inadvisable. Now it is unplugged as soon as the first seeds sprout. The clear plastic cover is removed once the heating mat is turned off. The seedling mix is moistened with a mister until germination, when I begin watering from below.
After being transplanted, the seedlings are placed in my mini greenhouse with hopes that they will increase in size and hardiness. The mini greenhouse is watered 1-2 times per week. Unfortunately, some of my seedlings seem to be stunted, putting on little or no growth following transplant. Others have done quite well. I am uncertain whether the cause of the stunting is low temperatures, waiting too long to transplant, insufficient nutrients, or something else I have yet to identify. I plan to try transplanting earlier in the future and introducing organic fertilizer once the true leaves emerge.
A future post will relate my experiments and travails in the vegetable patch.
Joining the Propagator and other gardeners around the world for another Six. The weather here has blessed us with cooler temperatures and much needed rain, which has lingered on as snow at higher elevations in the surrounding mountains. And more rain has been predicted.
The garden has responded to the more favorable conditions, and everything looks a bit healthier than it did a week ago. In particular the various cane berries and blueberries are starting to look like they might survive long enough to bear fruit, which I attribute to recent watering efforts, rain, and an overdue but generous dose of acid mix fertilizer. Soon they will (hopefully) need to be tied up.
The borage, verbena, ajuga, strawberries, blueberries, ceanothus, and numerous bulbs continue to bloom, while the dogwood has come into full flower and promising buds have appeared on the yarrow and even one of the bearded irises clumsily transplanted to the verge this winter. Meanwhile, my planted out seedlings remain stunted and my hastily planted (and unmarked) root vegetables have declined to make an above ground appearance. Did I bury them too deep? Did I order them too far in advance and keep them stored for too long under less than ideal conditons before planting them out? I am disappointed, but not deterred.
Joining the Propagator and other gardeners from around the world for another Six.
1. Aphids! So very many aphids. And the only ladybugs I have seen were on a fennel that did not appear to be afflicted. I have been resisting the impulse to reach for horticultural oil or soap, hoping that natural predators would take on the challenge, but my patience is wearing thin.
2. Vegetable garden path edging. A little messy, a little sharp, but at least the narrow pathway is now delineated.
3. Verge. Looking far better than expected, though my second golden rain tree lags substantially behind the first and looks generally sickly. It may have to be replaced.
4. Seedlings. The sowing continues. This batch includes tomatoes, cardoons, malabar spinach, and several flowers. The pots of seeds that overwintered out of doors are also beginning to sprout. I am particularly excited about my milkweed and California Dutchman’s pipe.
5. Wisteria. Excised from my neighbor’s yard, hacked at, with few remaining roots, the wiateria is nevertheless showing signs of life. Green buds have emerged from trunk and branches. Now to build a trellis sturdy enough to bear its weight.
Joining the Propagator and other gardeners from around the world (see the Comments section on the Prop’s post) for another Six:
1. Mulching with spoiled straw. Used up my bale on the perennial fruits and vegetables after recent weeding. Hoping that the mulch will aid in moisture retention during the dry months to come.
2. Dragonfruit (Selenicereus sp.) moved outside. Maybe too early? But I’m prepared to move it back inside if freezing weather threatens. My hope is that it will wend its monstrous way up the porch.
3. Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) planted out, after getting hooked on my skirt and dragged unresistingly from its pot, where I had fondly and mistakenly imagined roots were growing. Now doused in root growth hormone, its soil amended with cactus mix, and thoroughly watered, it has been planted outside, and we shall see what transpires. There is still a greenish tinge to the trunk that inspires a measure of optimism.
4. Desert Museum Palo Verde (Cercidium x ‘Desert Museum’) planted out. This plant arrived in the mail in far better condition than its counterpart, the ocotillo, and has put out substantial new growth since being potted up. The question of where to place this tree was troubling for a time, but ultimately I settled on the other end of the big perennial bed from the olive.
6. Restio transplanted. This year, my Giant Cape Restio (Rhodocoma capensis) suffered damage from the cold, with exposed foliage turning brown. After a little research, I ascertained that this restio is only hardy to USDA zone 9 (we are in 8). Yes, it seems like I should have determined hardiness before buying/planting the restio, but I was distracted by its beauty and incapable of considering mundane practicalities. The restio was accordingly transplanted with a degree of difficulty to a barrel planter next to the house, where I hope it will benefit from the added warmth.
While the weather is still mild, J and I have unertaken to do as much hiking as possible. This weekend we stumbled upon a new trail in the Illinois Valley, which brought us down through a mixture of pine, manzanita, and Oregon myrtle to the rocky banks of the Illinois River.
A wide variety of wildflowers were in evidence, despite this year’s dry weather.
Many of the manzanitas showed signs of damage on their new growth. Preliminary research suggested that it might be the aftermath of manzanita leaf gall aphid (Tamalia coweni). I submitted a question to the Oregon State University Extension Service Ask an Expert site for a more conclusive diagnosis.
This time it’s five problems in the garden that I have yet to diagnose and address effectively and one montage of plants that are looking particularly lovely at the moment. I would appreciate any help with identifying what’s going wrong and suggestions of organic measures that can be taken.
1. Let’s start with the saddest case: my cistus has taken ill. While it has continued blooming, its leaves have been turning brown and falling off. The leaves that are still green also have a sickly appearance. My efforts at research turned up verticulum wilt as a possible culprit. I am becoming convinced that I will have to remove the entire plant.
2. The plants I have grown from seed have generally not performed well. Specifically, their growth appears to be stunted. I have identified several possible contributing factors: (1) insufficient nutrients in seedling mix; (2) waiting too long to transplant into larger pots; (3) competition among seedlings not thinned out; (4) old seed (in some cases).
3. Also very upsetting is my vegetable garden’s continued failure to thrive. The vegetables I grew from seed appear stunted, putting on little growth over the course of the past 2-3 weeks since they were planted out. Last weekend, I attempted to address a suspected problem with the exhausted raised bed soil by side dressing with some organic fertilizer. The fact that a skunk has been digging over the bed on a nightly basis has not helped matters any. I have also endeavored to water more consistently.
4. Salad burnet grew vigorously, then collapsed at the center in unsightly fashion.
5. Strawberries are generally nibbled on by slugs and insects before they can be harvested.
6. And now for the more visually appealing offerings. From upper left: Idaho gumweed (Grindelia nana), Penstemon, Kniphofia, pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana), blanketflower (Gaillardia x grandiflora “Goblin”), Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii), Santolina Chamaecyparissus.