In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2009
Regional Report

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Sometimes, an area of the garden doesn't respond to even the most diligent care.

Doing What I Love

Gardening is harder work than I remember. Perhaps it's because I'm older, or perhaps it's because I haven't been doing it for hours at a time over the last 10 years, but it is still just as rewarding and captivating as it always was.

Starting My Day
The way I start a gardening day is to get a fan rake, my clippers, and a hula hoe out of the shed. Then I cruise the borders, deadheading and weeding as I make my way slowly along. In this way I can appreciate what is beginning to bloom, identify any insect or watering problems, and check the basic health of the plants as I go. I pull off spent foliage and if something is looking leggy, will give it a clip with my shears. I usually carry a bucket with me to collect the debris, but sometimes I just toss it onto the lawn to rake up later.

I don't always start in the same place. Sometimes I begin my rounds at the top of the garden in the cutting beds, but mostly I work my way around from the shady side to the sunny raised beds. There is an unusual weed growing in the shady portion of the garden, but I kind of like it so I'm keeping an eye on it. It's chartreuse in color and has a pine-looking leaf. I don't think it's dodder.

Once I have made the rounds and done a general clean up, I will select a project for the day. Sometimes it's planting, sometimes mulching or pruning. Weeding the containers is almost a full time occupation. Henry has a lot of bird feeders on the deck and the fallen seed sprouts quickly in the rich soil. It's a source of job security.

I find that time passes quickly when my mind is occupied with the task at hand. Last week I fertilized all the roses, this week I did a little planting of some poor dead-looking hibiscus that arrived in the mail. Henry receives all the new plants, tools, and books from garden distributors around the country. Every spring he receives dozens of new rose varieties. We mostly keep the roses in pots on the deck, but sometimes it's a bit of a challenge to find room for all the new arrivals. Tucking new varieties among the existing plants gives me something to look forward to in upcoming weeks.

Problem Spot
I'm having a devil of a time with the new planting bed at the bottom of the garden. Two years ago Henry and I worked a huge amount of amendment into the soil there and rototilled until the soil was friable. Now the entire area is as hard a rock again. I've mulched but the soil seems to have reverted back into clay. Hopefully, the mulch will break down and improve the texture over time. The plants seem to be struggling and haven't grown as large as I think they should. I'll keep you informed of my progress in that particular area, but if you have any suggestions, please let me know. I cultivate with one of those claw style cultivators to work the mulch into the surface, but I'm just not having much luck.

Working in the garden is rewarding and even though I feel like I've run a marathon by the time I'm done for the day, I know it's good for my body as well as my mind.


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