Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Short Range Girl in a Long Range World

In May this year we took a trip to Mexico to celebrate the college graduation of our youngest daughter. Here you see a part of the ancient ruin of Tulum which sits on a cliff above the Mexican Caribbean just South of the town of Akumal, where we stayed. The rulers who lived in the palaces at this site and many others on the Yucatan are long gone. The Mayan people who gave many generations and countless lives to build these astonishing edifices live on, mostly in humble pueblos like their hard working ancestors. Seeing something so very old gave me a helpful perspective about lots of things including my garden and the best way to proceed into what most likely will be a very dry future.

My little garden today. Feels like the garden is giving us a big green hug!

Even though the last few years have taken a horrible toll on the beautiful perennials I love so much, all in all, things don't look too bad (from a long way back). So, happy decaversary little garden!

Here it was 10 years ago. Pretty stark.

The best thing we did way back then was to plant all these trees. They encircle the house and provide Summer shade to us, to the animals, and to the little plants below. Indeed, my friend Zack a few counties to the North says the best time to plant trees is about 10 years ago. Right on the money, my friend!

The trees have really surprised me. This little oak tree sat there for years, then shot up last year during the driest times we have ever known.

The swamp magnolia did the same.

So, while it makes me very sad to look down, it's a pleasure to look up.

The 10 year rule also applies to native shrubs. We planted several each of toyon and redbud in 2005. For years you could not see them above the tall grass. Little by little, they have become more substantial. Another 10 years will make them spectacular. I wish we had planted more.

Here are a few more that seem to be thriving in the dryness:
Bartlet pear loaded with fruit.

Colorado blue spruce
Rosemary coming up all over in the gravel.

Oregano. Bees love it.
Native deergrass. I'm planning on dividing these up and planting them all over.

 All this thought about time has helped me to place myself and my garden into a more realistic idea of what's possible given my limitations. I've always felt limited by time, but it was more a short range thing. Could I get this or that done before I had to go get dinner started, pick up the kids, etc? In the short range, gardening is about what you can do in a day, a month, a season. This is the reason I love vegetable gardening. Everything changes by the day and it's fun to be a part of.


Here is a progression of this year's vegetable garden starting in March. So much happening all the time! The tomato close up is a row of Principe Borghese. They are loaded with fruit which I'm excited about dehydrating this year - my big project for the season.

Mid range time spans have always been a little tedious for me. Here is a little toyon I planted this Winter. Just think, next year it could have 5 or 6 more leaves. Woo hoo. This year I've been struggling to come up with a plan that will allow me to continue to garden with my other big limitations: water and money. I like to garden in a more random style, planting things that I stumble across and letting them do their thing. Without water, this non-planning can't work. I came across this plant list from the bee garden at Davis and I think it may be a good place to start. I'm sure I could try a half dozen or so of the VL (very little water) plants each year and figure out how to propagate the ones that do well. I do love bees and it would be nice to help them out.

This Winter I card boarded and strawed some of the dead zones. Hopefully this will keep the weeds at bay and act as a place marker in the old perennial beds for new plants that have a better chance of making it. Left on their own, these areas would by now be waist-high thistles and foxtails. Ouch.

A few months ago I asked my wise friend, Zack how to stay interested in long term projects. His response: "I have decided (or stumbled into) the idea of forgetting. That is, I plant a lot of things, and then forget about them. Later, when I stumble upon, say, a clump of shallots that I forgot I planted, I am pleasantly surprised!". A brilliant strategy! Here in bloom for the first time, is a California buckwheat I forgot. I planted it on the hill several years ago!

The mid range garden seems to be under way. It will be slow going and character building for me. That's okay, just glad to be alive and able bodied. The long range garden is also under way.
 Always has been, always will be. It's not a garden I have any say about. 
Time goes along with us for a little while...
 then without us.

A little live oak seedling growing next to a London plane tree we planted. When the plane tree comes to the end of its lifespan, the oak will take its place. I wonder who will be here to see it?


  1. AnonymousJuly 25, 2015

    Your vegetables are beautiful! I can understand the consolation of shade trees in your climate. We have had a hot, dry summer but it rained yesterday. Bliss! We don't have stringent watering restrictions, but we are told that if we don't get much rain this coming winter, we will be in trouble next summer. It is a strange thought to someone in Victoria, BC ("The Garden City") that we could possibly have a winter with very little rain. It's a global problem and no one is immune.

    Do you still have Romneya growing? I have two that I planted last year and one planted this year. Two are doing very well and the other one is struggling a bit.

    1. Hi Margaret!
      Funny story about the Romneya. I used your fire technique on the seed and got several clay pots full of seedlings. When it came time to plant them out in the Spring, I gently cracked the pots open and planted them in the sandy granite soil on the hillside. Everything was going great for a month or so, then it got really hot and I had to start climbing the hillside with a bucket of water each day to keep them alive. It turned out the ants were thirsty too as they made a giant hill at each spot I had planted the poppies. Every time I tried to water them the biting ants would swarm my legs. I gave up, but I do think I deserve an A for effort on that one. I'll get some more seed sometime and try it again, but this time I'll have the watering lines all set up beforehand. I'm glad you have a few that show promise! If you do have a dry year, they should be fine.

  2. You make me jealous! Lovely garden ...

  3. Thanks Chris!
    You have a lovely eye for Nature. You make me proud.

  4. The before and after photos are amazing! We've finally gotten some rain and snow, so hoping for the best and an end to the drought.

    1. Hi Zack!
      Let's hope the 20 year photos are even better. I'm working on it! I'm so sorry about your trees. It's always so upsetting to lose the cover of familiar old trees. All you can do is replant and wait. Here comes El Nino finally. Are you ready?


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