Category Archives: Spring

2018…the year that was…2019…is the now…

Hi friends and readers!

Last year escaped my abilities to write about changes in the garden.  It was a lovely year for the garden, with some changes and expansion based on last year’s harvest and growing patterns.

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New garden plot ready to roll; lettuce and kale already up, bonnet protection for the young squash and basil. Way out yonder along the lattice fence is expansion for more squash and tomatoes.

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Oriental poppies tripled in size this year and much sturdier!

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‘Jerusalem Sage’ and lavender nicely expanding their reaches 2 years after planting

Because the house needed to undergo a serious external siding renovation and painting, which took about 8 weeks for Randall to accomplish, most all of the old bushes along the backyard border side of the house were removed over the last two summers.  Cannas were removed from other areas and planted in the sunniest ends of the border strip, along with many plantings of young hydrangeas, hostas, and Tradescantia into the shadier areas.

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A new addition to the house backside border….Miss Saori hydrangea

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Some lilac Tradescantia to blend in nicely next to Miss Saori hydrangea

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Exterior house scraping and painting. Ugh. Had to protect the ground and plants as best we could for residual paint chips. Actually vacuumed the ground, too!

Farther out back I converted an area of fallow space (weed patch) into a productive melon, squash, and tomato space, also interspersed with more perennial foxgloves.  Being able to start these sun lovers in May was a bonus, as it receives more sun early in the spring for longer daily periods.  Come late August though, it starts to see more shade, just as did other parts of the yard, so they didn’t really have an extended season.  Sigh…

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Huge maples, neighboring trees on our south side, are adding more shade to the yard every year, so fall shade sets in early, and really only makes lettuce and kale happy! Beans don’t appreciated it…

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Expanded tomato and squash areas

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‘Indigo Rose’-‘Yellow Pear’-‘San Marzano’ tomatoes…ripening…yumm

Very mild fall and start into winter again, so who knows what the weather will be like this next gardening season….once again….seemingly the new norm of variability.  Lack of rain is never helpful though, and we did get quite parched last summer.  May we be blessed with cleaner skies (fewer chemtrails) and abundant, pure water in our future!  May all garden Beings be safe, be they visiting bees and birds, or resident worms and soil inhabitants, or the elemental devas!

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Vivid chartreuse “stained glass hosta” and coleus fading in sunny fall.

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Lavender and cleome still keeping bees busy into mid-fall. It was a warm and dry fall for several weeks.

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Did get to see our one hatchling mantis in late August. He tended to hang out near the warmer concrete area next to the house as the sun angle shifted.

In truth, it wasn’t the easiest of years, as we had another year of wildfires and smoky skies that started earlier in summer, and then energy got focused on dealing with my father’s health decline just after he turned 99 in September.  He finally released life on December 5th, after a relatively healthy life for his age, still living independently until the 3 months before he passed.  As he had said, he wasn’t in a race to tie his own father, who passed at 103 years (!), and it was fine with him if he didn’t make it to 100; and so it was.

I probably owe my “gardening genes” to my dad, since his family had a fairly long history of farming until my grandpa sold his share of a farm in Idaho, and continued to work in a Boise Cascade lumber mill.  (Neither my dad nor any of his 6 siblings had any interest in pursuing farming, and left for other destinations, largely Los Angeles.)

While I was a toddler growing up in Hollywood, he was the one who dabbled in planting roses strategically on our little hillside, and strawberries for a ground cover where grass would never grow, and he planted the huge hillside behind and slightly around our house with Algerian ivy to prevent mudslides (it worked for decades!) And for many years, until his old body didn’t like the strain, he would plant a few tomatoes each year in his backyard.   Thanks for the memories Dad, and not making me do too many of those gardening chores at home, or I would have revolted!  I learned at my own pace, in the right time and space…

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In Memoriam to Cyrus Davis. Thanks for sharing some crazy ideas Dad! 1973-Mt. Whitney summit at 14,093 ft. Think our hands are cold?

Wishing every One a healthy, peaceful, and happy 2019 in your Lives and Gardens!

Hiring frogs, fish and herons!

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Rain, rain, and more rain, followed by a little snow, then more rain, has kept the flood zone fluctuating, but definitely always a swamp. I keep waiting for some frogs to take up residence in our yard.  The swamp area is a little too shallow to be a fish pond, but it seems like it has potential!  It wouldn’t surprise me to see a great blue heron standing there one morning, but not likely.

As our latent winter, pseudo-spring has raised our temperatures into the milder zones, the ground is ultra soggy, and every shovel of soil weighs close to 3 bricks.  It is not a time for planting anything in our yard yet; instead it has been a time of digging up old, neglected, and sprawling shrubs; weeding, and pruning plants to enourage their new looks.  A time to clear the old and make space for new.

Cycles of equilibrium: the balancing of energetic elements; over-abundant rain to counter balance 2-3 years of uncanny drought.

While April plays its games of freaky weather, we wait and dream for gentler, warmer days in May, to dry us out a bit, and give us momentum to actually plant.

Kitties are taking more outings, too, weather permitting.  Juni definitely has spring fever, and likes to take her time scouting around the neighborhood, sometimes causing her mom some anxiety.  Aspen is reliable in hanging around the premises, preferring to keep an eye on his human’s activities.

Spring has sprung in our part of the world! Time to admire the exquisite colors emerging all around us!

Tip-toeing through puddles

…rather than tulips.  Perhaps slogging is a better term; definitely rubber boots weather!

Thank goodness for an assortment of blooming tulips and daffodiles to welcome the onset of Spring in western Oregon, which greeted us with more strong rains.

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Tulips to the rescue to welcome Spring, while puddles prevail!

Three days of no rain let the previous puddles drain away, and provided us with a chance to dash into the garden to do more pruning, throw on some fertilizers, weed, and minor transplanting.  Even a hike into the forest as we felt an energizing rise in temperature.

Equinox today bestows us with more puddles.  It has been a day for inside work, cleaning and refilling the bird feeders, reading, cooking, and contemplating future strategy for garden projects (like re-establishing medicinal plants I used to have).

Kind of a “retro-spring” in my mind; reminiscent of winter/springs a couple of decades ago, before the warmer, drier shifts of the last few years.  In that sense many of us locals don’t mind “global warming”.

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Not even thinking about the CG yet! But weeds are easy to pull!

Welcoming more noticeable light to our northern hemisphere days, while knowing it is harvest-season in the southern hemisphere!  May we/you be bountiful in all areas!

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Hyacinths and primroses deal with all four seasons of spring weather!

 

 

 

 

Come Together…CG 2015 is underway

It’s always a great feeling when all the seeding and planting is finished, and can announce that the CG is “open as usual.”  This year it has been hard to assign the right time to put everything in, given the incredibly warm and dry spring we’ve had.  March, April, and May have seemed to be intertwining months, with no real differentiation in their feel of time.  In April it felt like it was almost time to plant, but the calendar reminded me that tomatoes are best not put in before mid-May.  And so it is, and the tomatoes have their red spring jackets on.  Because, inevitably it may be warm for weeks, but when you get ready to plant tomatoes, the temperatures cool down a bit.  Variability is the name of the game.

Finally underway!

Finally underway!

As of today, the spaghetti squash once again wins the race for first emergence of all the squash, melons, and cukes!

Since our precipitation has come primarily in the form of spitting drizzle, it was necessary to wet down the soil with an oscillating sprinkler a few days ahead of planting.  We were rewarded with more ease of fertilizaer and soil preparation, and the emergence of tiny lettuce, beet, and radish seedlings in record time.  The cooler weather has actually been a boon for transplanting, but is deceiving in that the breezy, dry conditions require more watering than thought.

Neighbor's artistic use of bamboo at back of our property to confuse deer.

Neighbor’s artistic use of bamboo at back of our property to confuse and deter the deer; at over 8 feet high, we are hoping it works!

While awaiting the sprouting of squash, cucumber, and melon seeds, it’s time to contemplate the next phase of deer defense, as they have found their way into the house yard through the few open spots of the back area.

In spite of our overcast, cool, yet very dry weather, the bees are actively buzzing amidst the Spanish lavender!

In spite of our overcast, cool, yet very dry weather, the bees are actively buzzing amidst the Spanish lavender!

Hope your gardens are emerging and growing well, wherever you are!

Winter bypass

Winter (for Western Oregon) showed up in brief spurts in mid-December, in January, and seemed fairly negligible in February, leaving many of us wondering what is in store.  Many of us love the sunnier and unusually warm days that have presented themselves, but it does not bode well for water availability in summer, since there is essentially no snowpack in the mountains right now.

Spring arrived early, like mid-February.  Usually not this many plants showing so much growth, and March required a lot of pruning!

Spring arrived early, like mid-February. Usually not this many plants showing so much growth, and March required a lot of pruning!

February now goes down in the weather records as the driest and warmest month Oregon has ever experienced.  We welcome the next episode or rain scheduled for tomorrow, to give us allergy sufferers some brief respite.  The air itself looks a bit brown, which is really unheard of in February and March.  Undoubtedly, we are very grateful not to endure the harsh weather patterns in the eastern states, yet it all seems a bit surreal.  To spend the last half of February in warmer Costa Rica (which had its own atypical weather patterns happening), then return home to find I needed to start pruning everything, was a bit of a time warp.

Checking in with a local beekeeper a week or so ago, he wasn’t too happy about the weather, although there are plenty of blossoms out for the active bees.  Nights are still very cold, and he is concerned about any potential cold snap over the next 2 months that would kill many bees because their physiology has changed to warm weather activity, after which they don’t adapt quickly/well to sudden temperature changes.  And bees are a precious commodity anywhere, so we’ll have faith that this will be fine.  My Spanish lavender plants have overwintered better than last year, but having a sudden, brief deep freeze in mid-December, just after a warm fall, really tests their limits.

Wandering around in shorts and sandals for a couple of hours the past weekend I marveled at the warmth.  By February we knew everything would probably bud early, if no cold weather arrived, since some of us noticed daffodils and tulips pushing out of the soil in late December. There is nothing to stop a brief winter blast from hitting us anytime into April, of course, and that could present some issues, both for plants and for bees.

Some gardeners are getting their veggie beds ready for planting the early lettuce, spinach, etc., but my brains aren’t there yet, since we tend to enjoy warmer weather produce.  Also, it’s one thing at a time, and right now that thing is more pruning, and feeding blueberries, kiwis, strawberries, roses, and such.  That will be a few evenings and weekends of time.

Today, March finishes with more typical weather, just in time for the fickle month of April.  An imminent thunderstorm and a cold front of rain moving through right now; almost fifteen degrees cooler than yesterday!  And rainbows brightening the clouds when least expecting it.

Bees, get back to your hives!  Spring has sprung…

Newly leafed and blossomed apple enjoying no pruning by deer; we'll see how long!

Newly leafed and blossomed apple enjoying no pruning by deer; we’ll see how long!

A year gone by, surely you jest!

The summer Solstice energies always help things get growing...sometimes too fast...bolting radishes!

The summer Solstice energies always help things get growing…sometimes too fast…bolting radishes and arugula!  Garden is awake!

I don’t even try to mentally grasp at the reality of a whole year gone by since last posting. It does feel like there are several timelines moving simultaneously, and depending on what I am doing there is rarely a sense of linear time, except for specific moments “in time”. This is the true reality, non-linear time that is, so a year feels like a month or two, sometimes, and at times a week feels like two months ago.

Many wonderful happenings and blessings in life have manifested over the last year, and there is not a lot of time left for keeping garden updates. I surely have mentioned that it is enough work just taking care of the garden after a job! The entry of a companion into my life has broadened my horizons once again, and his generosity in embracing me into his very active life has provided new opportunities to travel, as well as a busier schedule than I was used to. When he sustained a skiing accident in mid-February, my life-roles expanded further into helping him heal from pelvis and hip fractures. Fortunately he is very ambulatory these days, but healing will continue for up to a year, all said and done. Complete recovery, but a slow journey. This spring it was all I could do to bring my focus to engage the CG and get it up and running. February became May before I knew it.

Rereading last year’s entry regarding spring weather in 2013, which I don’t remember one iota, it doesn’t seem so different from this year. We’ve had a long stretch of mild, dry weather in May and June, now being balanced with a touch of late June rain. As usual, the tomatoes are still cloaked in their finest red jackets, probably till July 4, or when the new deer fencing goes up.

We had one of the most severe winters I can recall in my 35-year tenure here, and it was interesting to see plants survived two cold events. The first event occurred the first week of December, 2013, when the southern Willamette Valley received about 1 foot of snow in a couple of days, accompanied by sub-freezing temperatures that lasted for nearly a week. I had the pleasure of stepping into a foot of snow with only my Chacos on, arriving home at 2:00 am from a week-long vacation in Mexico. This was the event that probably killed off many old hedges around town and all my Spanish lavender (the English type held up fine).

Then came the huge snow load of February 7th, when it snowed upwards of 15” in 48 hours; yes, record-setting for that rate! However, it wasn’t overly cold during that session, but the lavenders were completely covered. The snow probably insulated the seed pods, which did sprout a plethora of seedlings in front of the CG, almost like a little carpet. These will eventually be planted out again to replenish the Spanish type (Lavandula stoechas). The old L. stoechas and L. viride in front had to be removed, and were replaced mostly with the hardier L. angustifolia.

If Quan Yin is just over 3 feet tall...

If Quan Yin is just over 3 feet tall…

The bambi/es made their presence known early on this year, before the CG was even put in, dessimating my roses twice, so there are absolutely no flowers, and inhaling two of our newly-acquired tomato seedlings for the CG. Roses I am not so attached to, but….

A bumper crop of Lakemont seedless white grapes after a hard winter.  Was it modified pruning, or signs of plant maturity?

A bumper crop of Lakemont seedless white grapes after a hard winter. Was it modified pruning, or signs of plant maturity?

The odd weather affected flowering of the pear and columnar apples in the house yard, so there is absolutely no fruit this year. On the flip side, I have never seen so many grape clusters on a still-young grapevine, and I have done cluster thinning for the sake of the plant. And, for the first time, my Siberian kiwi is fruiting.  Now 5 or 6 years old, there appear to be a couple dozen small fruit. They aren’t lying about kiwis needing to be at least 5 years old before they start maturing, but I was starting to hold my breath because there were only a few blossoms last year that did not yield fruit. This is like a bumper crop!

Here’s to a bountiful year!

Success!  After 5 to 6 years, and a hard winter, several dozen Siberian kiwi fruit have manifested.

Success! After 5 to 6 years, and a hard winter, several dozen Siberian kiwi fruit have manifested.

For real, not for long

Aaahh…there were almost audible sighs from the plants, as moisture finally returned us to a degree of normalcy.  The cracks in the ground have nearly disappeared.

Just to balance out all that summery weather that led us to rename the month as Mayust for awhile, a huge cold front has enveloped us with substantial rain, and cooler than average temperatures, so it is reminiscent of March for a few days.  We are not complaining, just smiling.  It was bound to happen if the tomatoes were set in the ground, right?  The squash and melon seedlings in the house yard are protected with plastic jugs, and tomatoes continue to show off their red jackets.  Some of us feel like it’s time for a switch back to some sun and warmth.

Growing jugs in the yard?

Growing jugs in the yard?  No, these are mini-greenhouses.

What is the jug hiding?

A peek inside…to find…

Very young melons, waiting for some warmth!

Very young melons, waiting for some warmth!