Friday, December 31, 2010

Call in the Clean-up Crew

So much for having a La Nina year – this season has felt as wet as any El Nino year that I can remember, at least so far. My Midwestern relatives laugh, “how can just a couple inches of rain cause such a ruckus?” Well, this is Southern California, we don’t drain, we flood.  Despite road closures, cliff collapses, and downed trees in many parts of the county, the Victory Garden has weathered the storm mostly unscathed.

In the days between storm fronts, Hubby and I spent a couple of hours a day cleaning up. Hubby spent his time in the eastern side yard where we have our fruit trees. The tangerine tree, while vigorously producing fruit, was being pulled down by the weight of its own branches. One branch had started breaking and was cutting into the heart of the plant with a vicious split. Hubby cut off the heavy branches and mended the painful split in the trunk. We do not have space in the garbage cans for all the branches, but I hope that our neighbors will help us harvest and eat the fruit at least. For the time being, he piled the branches on the concrete pad adjacent to the tree. Hubby also trimmed back the pink heather, jasmine, and pomegranate. After spreading the newly shorn mulch around, he was ready to call it a day.

Meanwhile, I was completing massive amounts of weeding. I pulled buckets of thick stemmed dandelions out of the soil, still wet with the previous day’s rain. I have to admit, the tactics I used in Putting the Garden to Sleep didn’t work for weed abatement.  The cover I used was semi-opaque and allowed enough sunlight for the weeds to successfully germinate. Oh well, you live, you learn. Next year I will change tactics and use sheet composting and nitrogen enriching cover crops (more on that later). By the time I finished with the last bed I was wet, muddy, and my back ached from stooping over to pull weeds. I saw some really good signs of healthy soil – earthworms galore, many of them still young and small. I covered them back up with dirt to protect them from the birds.

I rounded out the day planting some more seeds in my butterfly garden: foxglove, black-eyed susans, butterfly flower, and yarrow. I know it is a bit early, but the seeds will germinate when they are ready, hopefully before the monarch return in their northward migration. I then planted more peas, radishes, lettuces, and nasturtiums. Seed planting is such a joy, like painting with spade rather than brush and with the lovely anticipation of what will pop out of the ground with the warming of the spring earth.

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