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My Garden Diary

March and April 2016

Copyright © 2016 by David E. Ross

Many years ago, when I first started my Web site, I created an online diary of my gardening activities and observations. However, with work and the commute from Hell, I was often so tired I had to choose between maintaining my garden and maintaining my diary. Sometimes, I did neither. In 1998, I stopped my diary and removed the pages from my Web site.

Now I am retired. I am well-rested and have plenty of time to both garden and maintain a diary. This diary is primarily for my own benefit, so that I can look back upon what I did and when. But I thought others might also be interested, so here it is.

Also see What's Blooming in My Garden Now?


January-February 2013
March-April 2013
May-June 2013
July-August 2013
September-October 2013
November-December 2013
January-February 2014
March-April 2014
May-June 2014
July-August 2014
September-October 2014
November-December 2014
January-February 2015
March-April 2015
May-June 2015
July-August 2015
September-October 2015
November-December 2015
January-February 2016

Diary entries for 2004 through 2012

Entries below are in reverse order (latest at the top). Daily, I might stoop to pull a weed or use a hose to water some potted plants; however, I don't consider those significant gardening activities. Thus, you will not see daily entries. Also, I might accumulate a few entries before updating this page on the Web.

When plants have well-known common names, their scientific names are given only the first time they appear on this page (entry closest to the bottom). There, the common name is in bold or appears as a link to another Web page.

Dates refer to other entries in the same year as the entry in which they appear unless a different year is given. Dates without years, however, may refer to entries on prior pages for the same year.

Date and Weather Observations and Activities
29 April

Mostly clear with some scattered clouds, generally sunny, and mild

Temp: 49-72
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 48%
Wind: 3-15

Climbed My Hill to train the 'Flame' grape vine at the top. I tied shoots with immature grapes to the supporting wire and headed the baaren shoots.

I never exert the effort in climbing My Hill for only one task. While I was going up and later while I was coming down, I cut down seedling and sapling trees that have volunteered on My Hill. When I had My Hill repaired, the county's Public Work Agency, which issued the grading permit, warned me against having trees on the slope. When the winds blow, a tree rocks back and forth, breaking up the soil around the base of its trunk. During a heavy rain, that creates a path for water to enter the slope, undermine the surface, and cause another mud slide. Having spent over $150,000 to repair the last slide, I want to avoid creating any risk of a new one.

Also while on My Hill, I finally dragged the last bundle of pruned branches from the 'Flame' grape to the bottom. I cut them up for the garden waste bin.

While doing my weekly watering of the potted weeping Chinese banyan (Ficus benjamina) on my front porch, I added a large pinch of ammonium sulfate into the second jug of water. I also gave a little of that enriched jug to the palm and lavender that are in pots on the brick path from the sidewalk to the front door. Having learn a hard lesson many years ago, I gave each of these plants plain water first to prevent burning the roots with the strong fertilizer.

In my breakfast room, ran kite twine from a hook in the cieling near the family room to the bracket in the greenhouse window for the shelf containing the potted all-green (i.e., not variegated) pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum 'Jade'). Then I tied two long shoots of the pothos to the twine with nursery tape.

27 April

Mostly clear with some scattered clouds, sunny, and mild

Temp: 49-72
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 40%
Wind: 5-13

Rain —
This season: 6.92
Days since last: 16

Trimmed the edge of the front lawn — pink clover (Persicaria capitata) — along the driveway. I will do the rest on another day. Today, however, my wife was at a discussion group and took her car, which is normally on the driveway.

Weeded the brick panel between the sidewalk and the curb, where there are utility junction boxes and where my "mother" lavender (Lavandula lanata × dentata) grows. By the way, the rooted lavender cutting (6 Dec 15) died; I think it got too much water.

Yesterday, I bought a wax-leaf begonia to replace one that died in the raised bed around the tangelo and a statice to replace the wrong one that I planted last year (24 Apr). Today, I planted them. Since I used bone meal in the planting holes, I firmly tamped the soil and then watered well to discourage animals from digging up the plants; apparently, some animals smell the bone meal and think there is meat for them to eat.

Moved the basil (1 Apr) onto the intersection of the paths between the circular and teardrop beds in back, next to my perennial herbs. I do not think the dill is ready yet to move out of the constant shade of the patio.

The two rose cuttings (17 Apr) already have new shoots. I think it is too soon, however, for them to have roots. I might temporarily remove their miniature greenhouse (the inverted bottom of a liter soda bottle) now and then to allow excess humidity to escape.

24 April

Intermittent cloudiness, some sun, and mild

Temp: 57-73
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 40%
Wind: 2-14

Rain —
This season: 6.92
Days since last: 13

Started training a new leader (main vertical limb) of the Podocarpus adjacent to our front door (25 Dec 15). From my prior experience, this might take as long as a year.

While grooming the roses in front, I felt rain. After putting away all my gardening tools, I discovered it was merely a brief shower. As I entered the house, the sun was shining intensely. Since the weather still seemed unsettled, I decided to minimize my gardening tasks.

The bromeliad in the dining room died. While the top was still green, it came off in my hand. The base of the green growth showed significant rot. I hope the cutting (16 Aug 15 & 23 Oct 15) successfully roots.

Cleopatra is awake and foraging in my back yard. I shooed her away from one of my two remaining thrift plants, which was staring to bloom, by offering her petals from faded rose flowers.

One of the statice that I planted last year (either 21 Oct 15 or 18 Nov 15) is apparently not (Limonium perezii). The leaves are different, and the flower stalk has much less substance than the other statice in the east bed in back. I will replace it when I can visit my favorite nursery to buy a (L. perezii); this time, I will check the plant label very carefully before buying.

22 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 52-75
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 47%
Wind: 5-25 (gusts to 41)

Rain —
This season: 6.92
Days since last: 11

Swept and raked the pavements in front — driveway, public sidewalk, and brick path to our front door — and raked the decomposed granite paths in back. (If I sweep the paths in back, I remove too much of the decomposed granite.) In front, most of the debris was from the valley white oak (Quercus lobata): twigs, leaves, and the fluff that represents the tree's flowers. In back, the debris was a mix of snippets from when I trimmed the edges of the paths and fallout from The Tree: twigs and leaves. The green trash bin for garden waste was filled just hours after the trash service emptied it.
20 April

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 64-85
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 11%
Wind: 1-19

Rain —
This season: 6.92
Days since last: 9

Fed the dwarf citrus with commercial citrus fertilizer plus two pinches of zinc sulfate for each tree. I also fed the gardenia with the same fertilizer and several pinches of zinc sulfate.

Trimmed the edge of the teardrop bed in back, on the side towards the east bed.

A limb of the Japanese zelkova (Z. serrata) — the street tree in my parkway in front — is dead. As the limb arches over the public sidewalk and extends over the brick path from the sidewalk to my front door, I am concerned that it would injure someone if it fell. The tree service requested some photos before making an estimate of the cost to remove the limb; I took four photos this afternoon and sent them by E-mail to the tree service. While photographing the tree, I noticed some small holes in a major upright limb. I am asking the tree service to examine that limb.

Trimmed the potted weeping Chinese banyan (Ficus benjamina) on the front porch. It had grown so tall as to put its pot at risk of tipping.

17 April

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 61-85
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 10%
Wind: 2-23 (gusts to 38)

Rain —
This season: 6.92
Week: 0.04

Put up cuttings of a floribunda rose that I surreptiously took from a public rose garden. The variety (to remain unnamed) is one that is no longer available through nurseries or apparently via mail-order.

Hung shade cloth over the greenhouse window. Since my house is not square on the compass, the window gets far too much morning sunshine from April through October.

Tied up some new shoots on the '4th of July' (front) and 'Peace' climbing roses.

Climbed My Hill to train new shoots on the two lower grape vines. I removed the tips of some shoots, tied other shoot to the supporting wire, and removed all shoots that arose from the trunk of one of the vines.

Trimmed the path in back between the lawn and teardrop bed. This also involved trimming around the dwarf 'Robertson' navel orange and various perennials that I have growing within the edge of the lawn. I still have to trim the edge of the teardrop bed facing the east bed and also the edge of the lawn along the concrete main patio. Then, I must rake.

15 April

Clear, sunny, and cool

Temp: 50-70
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 19%
Wind: 15-32 (gusts to 51)

Started pruning the rosemary bush (Rosmarinus officinalis) in front. With only about half of it done, the garden-waste trash bin was nearly full; so I quit.

Rain —
This season: 6.92
Week: 0.21

3 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 61-81
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 18%
Wind: 3-18

Rain —
This season: 6.52
Week: 0.02

The Dracaena cutting I was trying to root (21 Feb) rotted and failed. I still have the parent plant, now only a bare trunk. I do see growth buds on the trunk starting to swell. After new shoots appear, I will repot it and refresh its potting mix.

On the other hand, the bromeliad cutting that I am trying to root (23 Oct 15, more than a half-year ago) finally appears to have two very small roots. I will let those roots develop further before using the cutting to replace its parent plant. The parent bloomed and then died. Before dying, however, it sprouted two side shoots. I used one shoot for the cutting and left the other in the pot without removing the dead parent. If the cutting eventually fails, I will have to repot the other shoot after trimming away the remains of the parent.

Trimmed another lavendar in the circular bed. This required much less effort than the other two (27 Mar & 1 Apr) because this one was a newly rooted cutting just last year.

Finished trimming the Artimesia (27 Mar). I fed these with 27-0-6 lawn food. I also gave some of that same fertilizer to the potted Alstroemeria. Since that is in a fast-draining potting mix, nutrients tend to leach away; this means the Alstroemeria needs more than an annual feeding.

Trimmed the edge of the path that separates the lawn from the circular bed. I was going to trim the dwarf heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) in that area, but they have developed substantial trunks and branches. I will have to put more effort into trimming them than I wanted to expend today.

Trimmed the potted sage (Salvia officinalis), primarily removing flowering shoots. When a plant flowers, it tends to reduce the growth of new foliage; and it is the sage foliage that we use in cooking. If the flowers were allowed to set seed, that could seriously weaken the plant.

1 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 49-76
Winter chill: 239.2 hours
Humidity: 36%
Wind: 1-14

Rain —
This season: 6.52
Week: 0.02

Fed the dwarf citrus, gardenia, and Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) with ammonium, iron, and zinc sulfates. Following the strong recommendation of my favorite landscape contractor, I also gave the tea tree a small amount of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts).

Planted a 'Snow Lady' Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum maximum) in the east bed in back to replace a 'Daisy Mae', which I could not find. If the remaining 'Daisy Mae' and the new 'Snow Lady' grow vigorously, I might be able to root cuttings or take divisions to increase both.

Potted basil (Ocimum basilicum) and dill (Anethum graveolens), the only two annuals I have in my garden. As usual, I will keep these in the shade on my patio until they are well established. Then I will move them near my other herbs, where intersecting paths separate the teardrop and circular beds in back.

While planting the new Shasta daisy, I noticed signs of snail damage in the nearby hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). I applied some poison snail bait.

To prevent bark borers damaging my peach tree (Prunus persica 'Santa Barbara'), I used a drench of systemic insecticide that is harmless to warm-blooded animals (including humans). This is one of the few times I use a poison as a preventative. However, I have never had a peach tree that was not damaged by bark borers.

Severely trimmed another lavender in the circular bed (27 Mar). The remaining lavender bushes there do not require so severe a trimming, but they do indeed need some.

Trimmed the edge of the path between the rose and circular beds.

27 March

Thin, high clouds; mostly sunny (seomtimes hazy); and mild

Temp: 51-77
Winter chill: 221.2 hours
Humidity: 47%
Wind: 3-13

Rain —
This season: 6.11
Days since last: 20

All tasks today were in the back yard.

Trimmed one of the 'Goodwin Creek Grey' lavenders (Lavandula lanata × dentata) in the circular bed. It was crowding the adjacent azaleas and daylily and also blocking part of the path that surrounds the bed. Three other lavenders in that bed also need trmming. While they do not normally affect my hayfever, the concentrated exposure when trimming them can disable me.

The loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica 'MacBeth') — the central feature of the circular bed — seems to have set a large crop of fruit. They should ripen about May. I hope the squirrels leave some for me.

Put up two cuttings of Artimesia, hoping one will take so that I can replace an Artimesia that died last year. Then, I trimmed another of the more established Artimesia (20 Mar).

Three of the azaleas in the circular bed are chlorotic. I gave all six of them a dose of gympsum, soil sulfur, and iron sulfate. I also gave the same dose to a struggling Camelia sasanqua in the rose bed. These are not actually fertilizers. I will apply a very mild azalea and camellia fertilizer later in the spring, after all azaleas and camellias finish blooming.

Trimmed more of the edges of the path between the rose bed and the lawn (20 Mar), reaching the intersection with the path that divides the circular bed from the lawn.

Tested the sprinkler system for the back yard. As a result, I trimmed some of the lawn and shrubs to give more clearance to the sprinkler heads.

25 March

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 61-81
Winter chill: 221.2 hours
Humidity: 15%
Wind: 0-15

Rain —
This season: 6.11
Days since last: 18

Climbed My Hill to broadcast fertilizer. As with most of the rest of my garden, I feed My Hill only once each year with a house-brand of 27-0-6 lawn food from a chain hardware store. Tomorrow and the day after — Saturday and Sunday — I will run the sprinklers on My Hill to rinse the fertilizer into the soil.

My Hill is sufficiently steep and high that I really hate to climb it. Thus when I must climb it, I try to accomplish at least two tasks at the same time. Today, I carried lopping shears in my bucket of fertilizer. I used the shears to cut down many seedling and sapling trees that have volunteered on My Hill. The roots of those trees are too extensive to pull them out of the soil, so I hope that cutting the above-ground growth will kill most of them. Later in the year, more nutrients will have traveled back down from the foliage to the roots, making that hope less realistic.

On the west side of My Hill, the bush anemone (Carpenteria californica) is quite dead; but the bush anemone on the east side still has green leaves and a small amount of new growth. I will replace the dead plant next October, which is the prime planting month in southern California.

20 March

Thin overcast, mostly sunny, and mild

Temp: 55-76
Winter chill: 221.2 hours
Humidity: 49%
Wind: 0-12

Rain —
This season: 6.11
Week: 0.02
Days since last: 13

Continued trimming the edges of the main path in back, this time between the lawn and rose bed. This was slow and tedious since I was also removing weeds — mostly grasses — from the path itself. I also trimmed around the stepping stones that connect the path to the catch box at the bottom of My Hill's down-hill V-ditch.

Removed a dead cane from the 'Color Magic' rose. This is an "own root" rose, grown as a rooted cutting and not grafted onto a different rootstock. Thus, as long as there are live canes, the plant will survive. Also, any sucker growth from the roots should be retained as they will bloom true to the 'Color Magic' variety.

Trimmed another Artemisia. This is something that needs to be done every spring. However, I might skip those Artemisia that were planted last year as rooted cuttings.

Picked a very succulent asparagus (A. officinalis) spear. I planted asparagus when I first started my garden over 40 years ago. For many years, we had fresh asparagus with dinner once or twice a week for several weeks in the spring. Then, during a very wet winter, all the plants rotted in the ground. Late that spring, I noticed seedling asparagus sprouting. After about three years, I got a small crop. Then another very wet winter killed those plants. Over the decades, this cycle of new seedlings, edible crops, and destructive wet winters repeated. This is the first spring of another cycle in which the plants are sufficiently mature for me to pick an edible spear. If I do not see more spears, I will cook this one, slice it, and add it to a salad.

18 March

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 50-75
Winter chill: 212.8 hours
Humidity: 50%
Wind: 0-14

Rain —
This season: 6.11
Days since last: 11

Yesterday, finally moved all the remaining leaves from the patio in back into the garden-waste bin for the county's composting program. Trash is usually collected every Friday (today); so this afternoon, had an empty bin. Today, I swept the patio, clearing away small leaf fragments and the fuzz from The Tree's flowers.

Trimmed the edges of the rest of the path between the back lawn and the west bed (13 Mar). I also trimmed the red fescue (Festuca rubra) away from the Artemisia growing in the lawn.

I was going to feed My Hill today, but I discovered I did not have enough fertilizer. I refuse to climb My Hill twice to do one task. It is so steep that I prefer to climb it once to do two tasks. Feeding My Hill is thus an effort for another day.

13 March

Cloudy, gray, and cool

Temp: 45-61
Winter chill: 221.2 hours
Humidity: 18%
Wind: 2-16

Rain —
This season: 6.48
Week: 0.80

Started trimming the edges of the paths in back. Today, this involved removing many annual grasses from where a path meets the main patio between the lawn and east bed. I got as far as the dwarf lemon, trimming around its pot and also trimming around the Artemisia 'Powis Castle' (A. arborescens × absinthium) that is closest to the patio.

Weeds — especially pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) — have sprouted in the west bed in back. Some of the pimpernel is already blooming.

10 March

High, thin clouds; mostly sunny (sometimes hazy), and warm

Temp: 59-74
Winter chill: 212.8 hours
Humidity: 36%
Wind: 0-15

Rain —
This season: 6.11
Week: 1.17

Since my previous diary entry (6 Mar), there has been 6.5 more hours of winter chill. Since spring flowers and even my peach tree (Prunus persica 'Santa Barbara') are already blooming — prompted by a very warm February — I think the added chill is too late to benefit my garden.

Raked more leaves off my patio. The Tree is already in full leaf, but there is still a large mound of its last year's leaves.

Fed the dwarf citrus and the gardenia (G. jasminoides 'Veitchii') with commercial citrus food plus zinc sulfate.

6 March

Partially cloudy, mostly sunny (sometimes hazy), and cool

Temp: 70-85
Winter chill: 206.3 hours
Humidity: 64%
Wind: 7-31

Fed the back lawn and all of the front yard with the same 27-0-6 lawn food that I used earlier this month. I noticed many pink clover (Persicaria capitata) seedlings in front where die-back had left patches of bare dirt. I hope this ground cover recovers and survives this coming summer.

The crushed rock in the parkway is proving much more stable than the pea gravel that was removed (26 Feb). I see no stones on the sidewalk or in the street gutter.


Rain —
This season: 5.68
Week: 0.74

2 March

Thin clouds, hazy sun, mild

Temp: 60-79
Winter chill: 206.3 hours
Humidity: 28%
Wind: 3-12

Fed the beds in back, except for the camellia bed. As usual, I used a house-brand of 27-0-6 lawn food from a chain hardware store. I skipped the camellia bed because I use special camellia and azalea fertlizer there, after the camellias and azaleas have finished blooming. I still have to feed the back lawn, My Hill, and everything in front of my house.

Rain —
This season: 4.94
Days since last: 13

Weather data are from the Cheeseboro (CHE) weather station, about 2 miles ENE of my house.

The high temperature (°F) is daytime for the indicated date; the low temperature (°F) is for the previous night.

Winter chill is the cumulative hours of temperatures at or below 45°F from 1 November through 31 March. It is reported during that period and through April.

The relative humidity is at noon. (In my garden, it is likely higher than reported, a result of regular irrigation.)

Wind speeds (mph) are average (not peak) low and high, midnight to midnight (subject to later correction for diary entries posted before the end of the day). I also indicate peak wind gusts parenthetically when they are significantly high.

Rain is in inches. Season is the cumulative amount of rainfall from 1 October until 30 September of the following year (our "rain-year"). Week is the cumulative amount of measurable rainfall from noon seven days ago until noon of the indicated date. If no measurable rain fell in that period, Days since last is reported.

Characterization of the weather (e.g., Clear, sunny, and warm) is purely subjective; for example, "warm" might occur with higher temperatures than "hot" if the former occurs with lower humidity and more breezes than the latter. Also, a day that would normally be characterized as "mild" might instead be "warm" if the immediately previous days were quite cold. Finally, such characterization reflects when I was actually outside and gardening and ignores changes that occur while I am inside.

The signature line I use when writing messages about my garden includes the following:

Climate: California Mediterranean
Sunset Zone: 21 -- interior Santa Monica Mountains with some ocean influence (USDA 10a, very close to Sunset Zone 19)
See also My Climate.
January-February 2016
November-December 2015
September-October 2015
July-August 2015
May-June 2015
March-April 2015
January-February 2015
November-December 2014
September-October 2014
July-August 2014
May-June 2014
March-April 2014
January-February 2014
November-December 2013
September-October 2013
July-August 2013
May-June 2013
March-April 2013
January-February 2013

Diary entries for 2004 through 2012


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