Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flowering Plum in blossom now!

Early Spring in the Zlatnik Garden

"What is to rare as a day in... February?.... I dont think this is what Shakespear was thinking of... but today the temperature is currently 72... and so calm and spring like! What a strange year!!

In a Northern California garden the busy season is in full swing – the little bit of rain we had this winter has been enough to sprout weeds that have been lying dormant – in some cases for years! I do my best to remove weed plants before they seed – so these new plants are coming either from bird poop or from old seeds. Its ridiculous but this year I have had to water all through the winter due to our lack of rain.

On cold mornings the trees steam when the sun dries the dew

Daffodils are in full bloom right now and some little white star flowers that I got a year ago from some German friends. Also plum trees are in full swing. A few summer plants are thinking about waking up – with a few sprouts and buds. One of my jobs now is to prune shrubs and herbaceous plants in preparation for the “big spring burst”.

Equisetum- an ancient plant without true roots or seeds - very invasive so I grow it is the middle of a pond!

Many of my plants set new offshoots from the roots and cuttings can easily be removed with a bit of root attached and can then be transplanted. I sometimes buy one prize specimen and then in later years divide it many times – some for my own use and some to give away.

What the garden will look like in 2 months...

Also here is a trick I learned in Spain – and it works well in my garden. I surround a perennial plant with four bricks leaving an empty square in the middle as the bricks meet at the corners – I bury about one third of the bricks and pile some dirt around the perimeter – this serves as an excellent watering space for the plant, the bricks also act as a sort of mulch, and I can control plants that want to spread.

Lettuce growing in my raised bed - coming back after the cold of winter

We have a neighborhood internet “group send” that can be used to share information, share things you want to give away, or make requests for free stuff you want… I have received all the bricks I can use in this way. It makes watering so much easier! My garden is almost entirely Mediterranean climate low water plants, with a large number of California natives.

I have introduced a variety of cactus both in pots and interspersed in the garden

Our son Peter and his wife Marila came from Portland a couple of weeks ago and in two days did all the heavy pruning – the “up in a tree” pruning … They are such a pleasure to spend time with – conversation while working together in the garden is special…

Then if that wasn’t enough, they picked up all the cuttings and moved them onto the front driveway – it looked like a massive beaver dam! My neighbor was having tree work done and I negotiated with their tree guy to chip up all my twigs and I was done with them.

Spring flowers ( soon to be) in Febraury they are still much diminished!

Do you remember that I wrote about my big winter experiment? I made large planter boxes filled with a mixture of compost, soil, and manure – down to 20 inches deep. Last summer they were productive, but I wondered how they would fare in the cold months of winter. Here is my “official report. Once it got really cold the lettuce didn’t die, but it quite growing – right now it is warmer and is beginning to grow again. My big success was greens – 3 varieties of Kale. Collards, Spinach…

Salvia - many in this family do well with minimal summer water

In late December and January, early February was pretty heavy frost most nights. The spinach quickly gave up – but all varieties of Kale and the Collards grew like gangbusters. My favorite varieties are Red winter Kale and Italian Rapini – the Curled leaf kale is also nice but it’s the only variety that the Aphids seem to like. As far as lettuce varieties – We found the Manoa variety to be excellent ( but not in the coldest months), and my other favorite is Forellenschluss. I’m sure you can find these varieties in any good garden store or from the internet. Swiss Chard would also grow well – it’s just not our favorite.

My garden in February

Some people plant gardens with the idea of leaving the same plant in the same place for as long as the plant is alive. I view landscaping as a much more dynamic process - Like my sister-in-law Deb once said, “plants should come with wheels”. I buy a plant and live with it for a while – a year or two – and learn about it.

Our bamboo "forest" ( Mosa bamboo )

Once you really know what it needs to be happy, and what its growth patterns are – then it may be good to move it to a place where it will grow better or where it looks better. Late winter (right now!) is the time to make these moves… cold nights…some heat in the day… nice moist soil… Many plants can even be transplanted at bare roots and made to grow.

Along with my garden I am culturing compost – made from every blade of grass,clippings, and fallen leaves ( but no weed seeds ). I have two bins – I try to keep them moist, but not soggy (“like a moist sponge feels”),

Another view

if it is just sitting there doing nothing it probably needs more Nitrogen rich green material added in – that or a handful of nitrogen sulfate – either one would cause the pile to warm up with metabolic activity. If there is too much green material and not enough carbon material it will get slimy – then add more dry leaves, straw, and newspapers well mixed in… If it is starting to smell “bad” it has gone anaerobic ( bacterial decay without oxygen) due to not enough high carbon material – like straw, fallen leaves, etc. I love a nice active (warm), sweetly fragrant compost pile ( "like a walk over the forest floor after a rain")