Western Fence Lizard

Not exclusive to fences, I’ve noticed a pair of western fence lizards hanging out on the sunny wall around my thornless blackberry plants. They seem to be enjoying life quite a lot, making note of when I water my plants! It’s their mating season now, though I don’t know if they’re a mating pair. In their position, I couldn’t see if one is a male (per their blue bellies) – next time!

I love having lizards in my garden and hopefully they are helping themselves to a few pesky grasshoppers I’ve seen munching on some leaves. I think these beneficial creatures are rather beautiful!

Southern Belle Dwarf Nectarine Tree

After contemplating my backyard garden space, I came to the decision to welcome a new fruit tree, the Southern Belle dwarf nectarine tree. This genetic dwarf fruit tree, according to its label, is to grow no larger than 5 feet tall and produces very large, juicy and delicious (!) nectarines. I was so excited going to my neighborhood nursery this early morning and found my tree. It already has one very young fruit on it. I am hoping that it will enjoy its new home and stays healthy and will be productive.

I’m still thinking about how best to use my backyard garden space. I will have think about my future nectarine needs (!) and am actually looking for a space where a second of these nectarine trees might be realistically planted within the current backyard scheme. As you can tell, I’m very excited about this latest member of my backyard food garden!

Crown Princess Margareta Rose Debut

About 3-1/2 years ago, I bought several English roses, in containers, to replace several that were planted in-ground but were decimated by gophers who devoured their roots. I’ve kept them in their original containers all this time because of this.  Having a “buy now, investigate later” mindset, I found that these plants were not suited to grow in my area, but were still selling here (a rather dodgy business practice).

Taking a chance, I’ve seen some meet an untimely end (e.g., Munstead wood), but I am so very pleased to report that this past week, the two climbing Crown Princess Margareta rose plants have flowered! Mind you, these were not extraordinary displays (1 flower for one plant, 3 for another), it was heartening that they fought on against all odds and provides a very positive message of hope and patience. I don’t mind that it flowers every few years, as long as it does, which is probably an unusual perspective, but I love these plants.

More information on this fragrant beauty can be found here: http://www.davidaustinroses.com/us/crown-princess-margareta-english-climbing-rose

Jerusalem Sage

Every few weeks, I go to my neighborhood home improvement store, mostly to look for the latest plants. Today was a lucky day for me: I found beautiful plants from the clearance rack, among them 2 Jerusalem sage plants. They are healthy and I already had a backyard vacancy in mind when I saw them. Earlier this year, my beloved white iceberg rose succumbed to one too many gophers who became quite fond of its roots.

These two natives of the Mediterranean and elsewhere will invigorate that corner of the garden and have already stirred up quite a bit of interest among butterflies shortly after I planted them. This is drought-resistant once established as well, practical and lovely! If they thrive in my garden, I will likely propagate them by taking some softwood cuttings in the summer. So very pleased that these fuzzy-leafed beauties are now part of my garden!

A Row of Curly Endive or Frisée

In a fairly straight raised garden row, as nature intended, right? Over several vigorous afternoons, I cleared away back yard weeds (nearly done) and was overjoyed to see that they were not able to overtake the redoubtable but delicious and elegant frisée. They’re almost too lovely to eat, but I do and I am tempted to leave a few to stay on simply because they class up the place. I’ve more frisée seeds to indulge this idea.

As in past seasons, I am keeping track of what will really grow well in my microclimate. It’s often quite frustrating to read the back of seed packets and seeing that “crop X” grows in my area, but then it doesn’t, or not very well, despite efforts. Other times, I take a chance and grow something I don’t guess would do well but it does.

In the meantime, I’ve got bottles of fancy Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar ready for one these frilly beauties this evening!

Thornless Blackberry Propagation

An all-too-familiar experience, I stumbled upon a solution to problem I didn’t know I even had! Months ago, I purchased 5 Thornless Triple Crown Blackberry plants. In their first season at my home, they produced a few fruits, which I was quite grateful for, but wasn’t expecting anything more than their simply acclimating to their new home in large containers in my back yard.

We’d had an unusually wet winter in our area and gardening would have been a muddy affair, so I let nature and my plants alone for most of that time. The sunny days of spring here have revealed to me that some of these 5 plants decided to propagate themselves during that time. The canes of the plants grew quite long and the tips of some of the plants had reached and dipped into the soil of a few of the adjoining containers, while others dipped into the outside the containers directly into the surrounding raw soil of my garden. This propagation technique, whether done on purpose by the gardener or by nature is called tip layering (more information on several kinds of layering techniques: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/plant-propagation-by-layering-instructions-for-the-home-gardener).

Check out the roots forming at the tip of a cane that wandered into another container. I severed it from the parent plant so both can continue growing in their containers and will (hopefully) be thriving and fruitful. The second photo is the wandering canes that found their new homes in  the raw garden soil, which will also (hopefully) find great happiness in their new homes.

I am so grateful for these unexpected learning opportunities since now, it seems, I will likely have all of the blackberry plants and blackberries I can possibly handle in the near and distant future. It’s such an awesome and humbling thing when good fortune, such as this, just shows up. I’m exquisitely pleased!

 

Hope of Spring: Bare Root Peach Trees

The sadness of the loss of one of my apple trees has been soothed a bit by the addition of 2 bare root semi-dwarf, self-fertile peach trees: Desert Gold and July (Kim) Elberta. I planted these earlier this afternoon. About 4 years ago, I removed 2 quince trees (which began life as pear trees) since the fruit was attacked by plum curculio beetles (https://janedata.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/quince-fruit-culprit-drilling-tiny-holes-identified/), rendering the fruit inedible and increasing the risk for brown rot. This same beetle has been known to attack peach trees also, but enough time has passed and I’d like to give these trees a chance and see if peaches might survive and thrive in my food garden.

In the end, it’s always a bit of a gamble to see which plants survive in a garden. The premise of “grow what you actually enjoy eating” still rings true for me and I see no point in growing thriving fruits and vegetables in my private food garden that I don’t actually enjoy eating. Among other reasons, I like knowing that I grow the food that eat. The distance from “farm to fork” is shorter!

Saying Goodbye to a Tree

Nearly 4 years ago, I planted two bare root apple trees, Beverly Hills and golden delicious, with great hope that they would thrive in my backyard (https://janedata.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/apple-trees-golden-delicious-and-beverly-hills/), as has my 3-in-1 apple tree. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Both fell victim to cedar apple rust and despite years of treatment, the Beverly Hills tree has continued a downward trend, with a weak root system and producing fruit that would not survive to maturity.  The golden delicious has also been struggling, but has been able to produce delicious fruit to that survive to maturity. Although I’ll be keeping my eye on the golden delicious, today was the day I decided to say goodbye to the Beverly Hills apple tree and dug it out.

While it’s a sad event, it’s the nature of gardening – not every plant survives, despite efforts to keep it healthy. I’d probably kept it too long, but really wanted to give it a chance to turn things around, which didn’t happen. Investing in the care of a declining plant may be helpful in the short run if improvement in health is evident shortly after restorative efforts; otherwise, it’s better to put place efforts into the healthy, stronger plants. My 3-in-1 apple tree was also hit by cedar apple rust but has been able to fight back and produce quite a lot of apples. Loving trees as I do, especially fruit trees, I know the decision was right for the health of my entire backyard food garden. Goodbye, Beverly Hills apple tree.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Curly Endive or Frisée

Frisée sounds so elegant, oui? Curly endive is a wonderful addition to a food garden and several of these lovely plants are growing in my raised row bed garden. Started from seed a few months ago, these true beauties are gracing my garden with their very elegant frilly leaves. They are destined for my salad plate but in the meantime, I am enjoying the very lovely difference they provide for my entire backyard garden!img_1716

Folding Step Stool Helps in the Garden

As much as I honestly love doing deep squats (and I do), it becomes less fun when I have to hold that position beyond 5 minutes at a time. Even if you’re in peak physical health, this sustained deep squatting position can inflict tremendous stress on your knees and lower back (from experience). Today, I’ve thrown off the yoke of squat-stress in the garden by buying and immediately using a plastic folding step stool. It’s 9 inches high, 13-1/2 inches length, and 8-1/2 inches width. These were the perfect dimensions for me as a short person (5’3″).

img_1679

Recent rainy weeks have left behind a jungle of weeds in my back yard that need removing. This will be a chore that will require several weekends, but already I’ve felt the difference sitting on it for a few hours – such physical comfort (!) at the endimg_1680 of  removing weeds for 3 hours, by hand. This has been such a great tool; I regret not buying one sooner.

After my work was done for the day, I rinsed it off with water, dried with a towel, and folded it up – very light weight and compact. I bought it at a discount store for approximately $9, but it’s totally worth it to spare myself an achy couple of days afterwards. Such a powerful tool that promotes and supports good health – my folding step stool is already proving to be a great friend in the garden!

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