Friday, April 30, 2010

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It...

...and at this point, I'm not sure if I do.

We have decided to tackle the backyard "lawn" next.

I do not like lawns.  Period.  However, I have made a temporary exception.  We have already removed one section of lawn and will be removing the remaining lawn in the front yard.  This lawn in the back is used by the children every day.  Yes, even in its current state.  Considering the kids like to be barefoot all the time, this is not a pleasant place to play.  Therefore, we have decided to replace this section with lawn.  There will be around 800 square feet at the end of the day.  Next summer, that will hopefully be down to around 500 square feet, as we are planning on putting a deck at the far end.  Current finances can't support a deck at this time.

Once the children are older, this lawn will be removed and replaced with, well, something that's not lawn.  We are going to start the project tomorrow by first removing the top three inches of dirt (notice I didn't say soil, as this stuff is practically inert), repairing the sprinkler system with something more water friendly (the City offers rebates on certain items, so stay tuned for that) and placing a drain along the patio to the left.

We attempted to maintain this lawn when we first moved in, but couldn't.  It was ravaged by gophers, weeds from the hill behind the house and a general lack of interest from myself, to be honest.  The front lawn is fine with no fertilizer or reseeding, just regular watering.  This one wasn't happy with just water, so the hell with it.

We'll be posting updates as we go along.  We're looking forward to a backbreaking weekend.  After the Spurs game tomorrow, of course.

Anyway, this past week has not seen much gardening as we attempt to recover from this:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those were our seats to the California (I know they're technically L.A. or Anaheim or something, but damn it, when I was a fan Nolan Ryan was pitching, Rod Carew was at first and we had Reggie Jackson!) Angels against the Cleveland Indians.  The attorney's to our Company (insert shameless plug in order to go to more games) Dorsey & Whitney took myself, my wife and the owner of our Company along with his wife.  And, there are really only two important

There is yours truly doing has best Zane Lamprey impression!  Look him up.  And, that's only my first in the first inning...second in the second inning...I think you can figure out how that continues.  For those non-baseball people, there are nine innings.

To give you some frame of reference, that is the on deck circle.  And, yes, it's that close.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia looking concerned.  This was through glass as they had to protect the tv camera from people such as myself.  I was still somewhat sober.

Until tomorrow.  Game time for Tottenham and Bolton is 7 am PDT.  I expect everyone to be awake!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Around the Yard

This past weekend was pretty busy with Banana's 2nd birthday and my son's Pinewood Derby races for the Cub Scouts.  We did find some time to take a quick tour of the yard, though.


I guess you would consider this the 'before' picture.


Ice Plant of some sort

Bouganvilla.  I have nothing but problems with this one.  It's on its last legs this time of year when, I think, it should be going full bloom.  This is when it goes dormant.  Odd.


For the life of me, I don't remember what these are.  I'll have to wait for my wife to get home.  She's the memory.

That's a quick tour of the weekend.  Nothing planned for this upcoming weekend, except to get a lot of work done.  Here's a quick shot of the Pinewood Derby cars to leave you with.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Darkness Falls

Darkness has hit Castle Turling this morning.  We have suffered a great loss, and may take weeks to overcome it.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Tottenham Hotspur fell to Manchester United 3-1.  Two well deserved penalties against us could not be overcome.  It was not meant to be today.

Now, the part that pains me most.  I'm trying to muster the courage to type the words.  *sip*.  That helped. *gulp*.  Ok, that helped more.  Ok.  Here it goes.  We must....must may be a strong word.  Should is probably better.  We should pull for...wait for it...Arsenal.  There!  There it is.  I wrote it.  It's out in the open, now!  Arsenal must get a result against Manchester City (game starts in half an hour), in order for us to maintain fourth place.  I know it pains all of you to be forced to do this, but sometimes the dirty work needs to be done.  Now, it's off to get a pint (I know it's 9 am, get off of my cloud!) and to push the children from my spot on the couch.  Arsenal.  I feel dirty.

Updated:  Arsenal held Manchester City to a draw.  We're still in fourth, ladies and gentlemen.  Three games to go, then I'll stop talking about it.  Until July 17th, when our beloved Tottenham Hotspur come to San Jose, California for an exhibition against the San Jose Earthquakes.  Don't you worry, I will take plenty of pictures!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Good Day's Haul

Below is the haul from the most recent nursery visit.  Due to the rainy weather we've been having, we decided to visit the local home improvement center, rather then drive to our favorite nursery.  It being California, they sometimes close when it rains.  Go figure.

Starting from the right, as we have to start somewhere, we picked up two Cape Magenta Kangaroo Paw's (Anigozanthos 'Cape Magenta').  In the center we have a Lantana (Lantan camara) and the smallest addition to the left is Gaura.

The Gaura is native to Texas and Louisiana.  It gets about three to four feet high, and about two to three feet across.  It shoots off a plethora of pink blooms all summer.  From what I've read, we need to be steadfast in our deadheading as this plant can propagate rather quickly.

The lantana grows everywhere in our area in Southern California.  Unfortunately, I may be moving it this weekend, as I didn't realize how much it may spread.  It can get six feet high and the same across.  This is where I placed it to start.

I'm afraid it will quickly snuff out the three boxwoods, so I'll be moving it this weekend a little further in.  My mother has Lantana in Arizona, and only the yellow and orange varieties seem to survive the heat for some reason, so we went with the yellow.  Hers are kept in check, but the gardeners are there often, and I'm not sure I have the discipline to constantly maintain the plant as they do.  We'll see.

Next is the Kangaroo Paw, which I have never grown before.  It can get to be about 30 inches tall and 15 inches wide.  They are quite drought tolerant, as are all the plants we picked up.

Here are the two Kangaroo Paw's with the Gaura in the foreground.  Our hope is to eventually have the plants so tightly packed, as to drown out the sun to the ground.  Also, the angle makes them appear to be closer together then they really are.

The last plant we picked up was from the $5 pallet.  It's a Hollywood Juniper (Juniperus chinensis 'Kaizuka').

It's native to Southeast Asia and can get about 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide.  I have no idea where I'm going to put it, but it was $5.  From what I've read, it can be pruned and kept at a smaller size.  It's fairly slow growing, so I'm thinking it should not be too much work.  It, obviously, hasn't gone into the ground yet, but I will be sure to let all of my readers (both of you) know where it finally ends up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm at a Loss...

Way back yonder in the days of old, also known as January, we planted five Brush Cherries (syzygium paniculatum).  The intent is for them to grow into a hedge which will act as a wall.  Between them, I am going to drop two posts into the ground and construct a gate.  Now, keep in mind, the well intentioned people at the nursery told me they get to about ten feet and would occasionally need to be clipped to maintain their hedge-like shape.

Upon returning home, we decided to look them up in the Sunset Western Garden book.  Something we probably should have done prior to going to the nursery.  They, apparently, grow like weeds to a height of thirty feet!!  The nursery's definition of occasionally pruning is Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.  Anyway, that is not the purpose of the post.  This is:

Notice the cherry on the left is full and healthy, such as Clive Owen.  The one on the right is the equivalent of Mr. Bean.  (Bean, if you are reading this, it's all out of love.)  Now, here are the other three:

They are similar to Bean, with the exception of the one in the middle which was broken in half by a storm shortly after planting.  Otherwise, it's similar to Owen.  Or, at least, his calves.

Now, these five cherries all receive the same fertilizer, water and sunlight, yet one (and a half) appear fine and the other three as if they really want to be somewhere else.  Here are some close ups of the foliage:



Now, they are growing, just not at the same velocity.  I did mention that they have all been treated the same.  Well, that's not exactly true.  The full sized Clive Owen has had one difference that the others have not.  Days after planting, we were hit by several days of storms.  Storms so severe, there were mudslides in burn areas and around the clock coverage of Storm Watch 2010!!!  (Cue ominous music.)  Those of you in Southern California know exactly what I'm talking about.

During these storms, stumpy was broken.  That's his problem.  The other three rolled in their holes.  All of them came with a stake (don't get me started on how much I hate staking), so I put them stake and all into the ground.  What I failed to do was drive the stake completely through the root ball into the solid ground.  The severity of the storm toppled the cherries and the rolled like a ball and socket joint inside the hole, except for Owen and his younger, shorter brother.  A few days later, I propped them all back up and drove 4 foot pieces of rebar through the root ball and into the solid earth.  This seems to have done the trick.

The three that rolled are the three that are not doing well.  I'm just hoping it's some type of shock (is there such a thing), and they'll spring back to life.  They weren't cheap.  And, I am.

P.S  Smashing victory this weekend by our (notice how I'm going from "my" to "our", as you have all now been assigned a favorite team) beloved Tottenham Hotspur completely outclassing the Evil Empire, known as Chelsea, 2-1.  It could have easily been five, but a win is a win.  Come on, you Spurs!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Review: Edible Schoolyard A Universal Idea by Alice Waters

Since books are the second passion of our family (my lovely wife is studying to become a librarian), I have decided to start a semi-regular book review post.  So, here it goes.

The Edible Schoolyard was written by renowned chef Alice Waters with the help of Daniel Duane.  Waters is the co-owner and of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.  The book is the story of her founding of a garden and kitchen at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California and is quite an inspirational story.

The school was, and prehaps still is, on Waters route to and from work.  She drove by it everyday along with it's horrid land and concrete ground.  While giving an interview to a local paper about land management, Waters pointed out the school as a way not to manage land.  Little did she know the gravity of her claim, until she received a call from the school principle telling her to put her money where her mouth is, so to speak.  Waters walked the grounds with the principal and  began formulating a plan.  The book continues on about the involvement of faculty and parents and the methods used to get the project off the ground.

A year later, the school hired an Englishman (although that wasn't held against him), David Hawkins, to become the full time gardener for the school.  He began a summer program and employment of every cheap method of building he could muster to get the garden put together.

Year three saw the opening of the kitchen at the school, where students could cook the fruits of their labor.  It was also fascinating to read how the kitchen was used for teaching math and science, as well as humanities classes, where in one example, students learning about Neolithic times would hand grind berries in stone mortars as a type of living history.

Throughout the book, stories of getting kids involved abound.  It's also interesting to read how the adults adapted to life with inner-city school children in order to make the garden a place they could be a part of.

The book continues on in the first half with various stories about the happenings in the school, kitchen and garden, including a visit by the Prince of Wales himself.  The latter half of the book consists of photographs, writings of the children and various other illustrations regarding the garden.

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I do love reading about passionate people doing remarkable things and Waters must be considered passionate to accomplish what she has during a time when her type of cooking was not considered mainstream.  The book is not at all preachy, either, saving only the last couple of pages to point out the benefits and obvious reasons projects like this need to occur.  Lastly, it's a quick read giving the reader just enough of a glimpse into the history without bogging down.  Well done.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April Bloom Day!

From our most recent visit to the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens has Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.  This is my first month of participating.  Be sure to visit her site to see other participants.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Ladies and Gentleman, we interupt this program for some very important news.  Tottenham Hotspur 2, Arsenal 1.  What a glorious day this is!!  Now, go plant something.  Preferably in lillywhite and blue.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Front, Stage 1, aka, "The North 40"

Alright.  Here it is.  The first part of the yard shown that does not consist of a single plant.  This is the first section of yard that we are tackling.  Now, as I have stated previously, our yard is not large by the standards of someone who lives in say Alaska.  Or Montana.  Or Siberia.  However, by the standards of the state of California, the yard is pretty decently sized.  Now, I haven't been able to muster the courage to show the entire yard.  I'm still compiling my list of caveats related to each possible picture I could show.  It's quite an ugly site.  In my defense, though, I did not have much to start with.  I believe that would be caveat one.  As a breach to that defense, and as my wife would quickly point out, I am the king of demolition.  I remove everything that could ever want to be removed.  However, I'm not nearly as diligent in the reconstruction process.  The yard, unfortunately, has suffered the brunt of this problem.

So, what we have decided is to tackle the yard in pieces.  That will limit the area we need to concentrate on.  Our plan is actually to create a series of rooms within the property, so dissecting the yard actually fits quite nicely into that plan.  This is what we decided to tackle first.  The front yard off the driveway.  On the sprinkler system we inherited this was labeled the "North 40".  I've decided to stick with that.

Prior to this, the area consisted of lawn.  Next to gophers, lawn is the one thing in this world I despise the most.  Dictators of third world nations who rule with an iron fist are a distant third to these two items.  Within the lawn, there was an ornamental plum tree and a Magnolia.  Now, I have nothing against either of those trees, there were two issues (one with each).  The plum was planted too close to the knee wall.  The magnolia tree was the free city tree that came with the newly constructed houses.  Meaning, every house all the way down the block has the same tree, in the same spot of the yard.  They're Stepford trees.  That wouldn't do.  So, they were the first two trees to come down.  The battle with those stumps is a story for a different occasion, while drinking a different cocktail then I am currently drinking.  And, yes, all bloggers drink when they blog.  Or, at least they should.

The new area consists of the Pigmy Date Palm to the left of the second picture, which is the only surviving item from the previous regime.  It's named Bob.  Different story.  We then have the olive, which is in previous posts.  The small slope is covered with lavender, fourteen in total along with three Italian Cypress.

Two types of Agapanthus are up against the neighbor, the Sprinkler Maven.  The two largest are Agapanthus 'Lily of the Nile' and the three smaller are Agapanthus 'Stormcloud', which are supposedly cobalt in bloom.  Looking at the picture, I'm not sure how that will look against the lavender.  I'm not fond of my blue suit with lavender pocket square nor lavender socks, but I digress.

The front of the yard is rimmed with Boxwood Green Beauty (buxus microphylla japonica).  Capped on two ends with Golf Ball Kohuhu's (pittosporum tenuifolium), which is better seen in the first picture scarred by the leg lifting neighborhood dog.  If anyone knows of a way of electrifying foliage, I would be willing to pay for the information.  We had a third Kohuhu; however, the Sprinkler Maven made sure one didn't survive the liquid onslaught.  Once they grow into a solid wall, I'm hoping it will look quite spectacular.  Sweet Jesus, I left the weeder in the picture.

Here is the line up of boxwoods, along with our drip system.  Yes, I understand that is should be buried, but do keep in mind, I have the memory of a gnat.  Ask my wife.  If I bury it now, it is guaranteed that I will slice through it each and every time I dig a hole for a new plant.  And, in this space, we imagine there will be at least another twenty plants.  That's twenty repair jobs.

Also, note the boxwoods are set back away from the sidewalk.  We're going to put a ground cover between it and the sidewalk.  We have decided the mulch is ugly.

Lastly, we have three mirror bushes, two Coprosma Repens Marble Queens:

And, one Coprosma Rainbow Surprise:

Lastly, my God this is long, I need to go get another drink.................lastly, you will notice all these plants are small.  This is a very, very, very, very young garden.  The lavender and cypress are a year old and everything else (olive in June of '09) has been put in during the last couple of months.  We have a lot of plants that need to be acquired and a surprising amount of patience to wait for them to grow.  I'm actually going to attempt plants from seed soon as a way to fill the space while still being able to afford food.

Monday, April 12, 2010

They're Alive!!

We're back from our fun in the sun in beautiful Hawaii.  Good news to report...all the potted plants lived!  We even had higher then normal temperatures, and they all came through unscathed.  Of course, we returned to cold and rain.  Go figure.  Now, that we're back, the garden (and of course the long list of things my lovely wife has planned for me) is at the forefront.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Vacation Prep!

Finally, we will be off on a vacation, shortly.  We will be visiting our great state of Hawaii.  It will be a pleasure to get away from the freezing sleet and piled high snow here in Southern California.  Oh, wait.  Scratch that last bit.  What is sleet, anyway?

We found out the hard way a few year's back when we went to London that moving your potted plants onto the lawn, we did have one of those then, and allowing the lawn sprinklers to water them has disastrous results.  For our last vacation, and now this one, we purchased a pot watering system.

This particular kit we purchased from The Drip Store.  It comes with quarter inch tubing, stakes, connectors and various types of drippers.  It worked like a charm, as all of our plants survived in tact.  It wasn't until later we killed them.

Now, mind you, it is not the most attractive set up once in place.

You can make it permanent; however, we still do like hand watering, as different plants have different requirements, and we tend to move the pots with some frequency as certain victims are replaced with future ones.

The programmer can be set to go off multiple time per day for various lengths of time.  One drawback is that the time starts when you first turn it on.  There is no setting it to go at a specific time, say 5 am.  If you want it to go off at 5 am, you need to walk outside in your unmentionables at that hour and start it for the first time.  Needless to say, our watering will occur in the evening, as that is when I walked out in my unmentionables to start it.

The system has worked flawlessly.  It came with plenty of hose and connectors.  There are a couple of things, though, that could be changed.  First, as with any kit, the mix of items usually is not what you need.  The kit contains foggers and drippers that are 1 gallon per hour and 1/2 gallon per hour.  The 1/2 gallon per hour drippers are useless unless you encircle the plant with them as if you were laying siege to a castle.

Luckily, I had extra 1 gallon per hour drippers, so the day was saved.

Second, this is not the first time we have used this system and there are quite a few more plants now then we had before.  I didn't show the other batch as I couldn't figure out how to get the picture without capturing the lawn/dirt, which is not something anyone wishes to see.  We have about 13 plants on this system.  Reconfiguring the system is a little difficult as the connectors and drippers cannot be undone from the hose once set.  One must cut the hose and insert more connectors.  It looks a bit Frankensteinish after all is said and done.

Either way, it is a small nuisance, as coming home to mass plant extinction is a far bigger nuisance.  Also, we have finally planted some tomatoes and strawberries and it would be heartbreaking to lose our first go at vegetables.  That's for a future post.  Not the loss, but the vegetables.  Keep up.

P.S.  Very bad, bad morning today as it was too early for a pint due to my being on kid duty today and my beloved Tottenham Hotspur fell to Sunderland 3-1.  We were simply outclassed, although we had every opportunity at the end for at least a draw.  As of now, still in fourth.  I'm afraid, though, in an hour we won't be.  Bar maid, where's my cocktail???

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Food Day

Today is April Food Day.  Millions of people will be hungry today just in our country alone.  Tens of millions will be hungry around the world.  The Elengantologist at Easy and Elegant Life has asked, along with April Food Day, for bloggers around the world to bring hunger to the forefront on this day.

As gardeners we hold, I believe, a special place in the fight against hunger.  We all have the knowledge, if not the skill, to feed ourselves and our families by growing our own food.  In addition, we all have the ability and for many probably the reality of growing more food then we can possibly consume ourselves.  We also have the ability to teach others how to grow their own food and be somewhat self sustaining no matter their economic or geographic limitations.  I have visited and continue to visit many bloggers whom grow fruits and vegetables on their balconies in major industrialized cities, Sue at the The Balcony Garden I'm looking at you.  In spaces probably smaller then our downstairs bathroom.

I'm not asking for money, although if you are so inclined the link above (I still haven't figured out this blogging thing to get a link to be imbedded into a picture) will take you to April Food Day where you can make a donation.  I am asking that you try.  Give advice to a fellow blogger (myself and the The Idiot Gardener can use all the help we can get), volunteer at a school, donate some excess to a food bank or send some seeds to the multitude of inner city gardens in order to stamp out hunger in the world.  Thank you for your time.