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My Garden Diary

April and May 2004

Copyright © 2004 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. So here it is.

Entries 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 I started this diary, I made an entry each time I groomed the roses or other plants. But I do this almost every day, even on days when I do nothing else in the garden. Boring!! I no longer make entries for grooming flowering plants or for times when I pinch shoots to make plants bushy (something else I do whenever I walk out into the garden), unless there is something noteworthy.

Date and Weather Observations and Activities
30 May

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 57-90
Humidity: 26%
Wind: 3-14

June gloom is temporarily suspended for the holiday weekend.

Fed the dwarf citrus. Often, if I am feeding other plants with ammonium sulfate, I will put a very small amount in the tub for each of the dwarf citrus. This time, however, I used commercial citrus food (after adding a little zinc sulfate), two handsful per tub. I also scattered a little of this fertilizer around the gardenia and Leptospermum, both of which need the same acidic conditions as citrus.

Fed most of the roses in front. The first feeding of the year is a home-made mix of ammonium sulfate, soil sulfur, superphosphate, iron sulfate, Epsom salts, and gypsum mixed with some peat moss. As the first rush of flowering ended a month ago, I fed the roses with ammonium sulfate (26 April). This time, I used a commercial flower and shrub food with systemic insecticide. After digging it into the top 2-3 inches of soil, I topped the area with a generous amount of gypsum to break up the clay and allow the fertilizer to leach down into the roses' root zones. Through September, I will alternate using this fertilizer and ammonium sulfate. Then I will stop feeding the roses so their growth and flowering will slow through December, after which I prune them to start the yearly cycle again.

Placed "ant stakes" in various parts of the back yard. Unlike the traps the exterminator gave me, these contain a bait that does not kill the worker ants. Instead, they carry it back to their nest, where it kills the larvae. Since ants only live for 2-3 months, eventually the nest dies of starvation when no new workers are available to bring food back to the queen and new larvae.

28 May

Cloudy, gray (occasional hazy sun), and cool

Temp: 51-74
Humidity: 69%
Wind: 0-15

Standing on my patio in back, I counted over 35 flower stalks rising from the bed of lilies of the Nile (Agapanthus orientalis). One or two are even taller than I am. A few show individual blue buds, but none are open yet. After they finish blooming, I should thin the bed.

This morning, as I cleaned my breakfast dishes and rinsed the coffee pot, I looked out the window into the back yard. I saw a large mouse nibbling at the red fescue. I hope it likes squirrel bait. I don't mind it eating the grass, which grows quickly. I just don't want it staying around when the peaches and grapes ripen.

Two or three months ago, I took cuttings from the two "orchid cactus" (Epiphillum) growing in pots on the counter outside the kitchen window. They were both quite overgrown and had not been repotted in years. One of them just finished blooming, so I checked the cuttings from that one. Since the cuttings had roots, I trashed the parent plant and used its pot for two of the cuttings. Unlike most Epiphillum, this one has some nasty thorns, one of which went right through a leather glove and into my thumb.

Weeded in back, on my hands and knees around the circular bed and where the east and rose beds meet.

26 May

Clear, sunny, mild to cool

Temp: 50-72
Humidity: 40%
Wind: 0-13

Yesterday, I saw a squirrel running around the back yard and climbing The Tree. I hope he finds the bait (13 May) before the peaches and grapes ripen.

Plants in the camellia bed in back — especially the 'George Taber' azaleas — seemed chlorotic. I spread a generous amount of gypsum throughout the bed along with small amounts of iron sulfate and soil sulfur. I also put a generous amount of ammonium sulfate around the stump of an azalea that died; I hope this will prompt the decay of its roots so that I can pull it out.

Lightly used ammonium sulfate to feed the Cuphea in the rose bed and the Leptospermum in the teardrop bed.

Crawling on my hands and knees with my paring knife, I trimmed the edge of the parkway in front along the sidewalk. This might not seem like much of a task, but I neglected this for quite some time. Weeds growing out over the sidewalk had trapped dirt and decaying leaves, creating as much as an inch of soil over the pavement. New weeds had taken root in this soil. As I removed the growth, I tossed this excellent topsoil back into the parkway.

What's the difference between a weblog, an online journal, and this diary?

24 May

Cloudy, gray, and cool

Temp: 52-70
Humidity: 56%
Wind: 1-11

Last year, the leaves on my dwarf 'Robertson' navel orange curled in a way that is characteristic of an attack by spider mites. Since the tree seemed otherwise okay, I did nothing. Then, it lost all its leaves. This past weekend, I noticed the start of leaf curl again. Today, I sprayed all three citrus with malathion.

Weeded much of the circular bed in back.

Tied down new canes of the climbing 'Peace' and climbing 'Chrysler Imperial' roses in back. A few of the new canes on 'Peace' had declined in vigor after shooting up about 5-6 feet. I removed them because there are enough new canes already.

23 May

Cloudy, gray, and cool

Temp: 51-72
Humidity: 51%
Wind: 0-9

This morning, I made a conscious decision that I would definitely not garden today. But, as Robert Burns said, The best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft a-gley.

Again watered the compost pile, this time to rinse the nitrogen into it.

Placed superphosphate around the guava (Feijoa sellowiana) and loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), the same way I previously did for the artichoke (30 April).

June gloom is here more than a week early. In southern California, April and May are usually clear and sunny with occasional hot days (as we had this year at the end of April). Then, in June, we get nighttime fog, morning low clouds, and hazy afternoon sun. The daytime temperatures in June are often lower than in April and May. Overall, June weather is cool, gloomy, and damp. June might even bring drizzles, not enough to measure but enough to require driving with windshield wipers running. Last year, June gloom extended into July. This year, we got it in the third week of May.

22 May

Mostly cloudy, occasional hazy sun, and mild to cool

Temp: 50-73
Humidity: 44%
Wind: 1-10

In my neighborhood and all over southern California, jacarandas are blooming. These trees are so densely filled with their blue flowers that no leaves are visible. No, I do not have a jacaranda tree. When the flowers fall, they make an awful mess. I feel about these trees very much as I feel about blue gums (Eucalyptus globulus) and red gums (E. camaldulensia) — they are beautiful, striking trees that I enjoy seeing but would not allow in my garden.

Climbed My Hill to tie and trim the grape vines again. I saw many immature bunches of grapes. There will be a very large crop this year. One problem with this task is that I never know if I'll have to chase the ball of twine down the hill or if the ball will chase me when I lose my footing.

While on My Hill, I also cleared a clogged rainbird sprinkler head. Apparently a large bug crawled into the anti-siphon valve. When I ran the sprinklers on My Hill last Tuesday, I noticed one head put out only a trickle when the bug lodged in the head's nozzle.

Stirred and then watered the compost pile. Then I added urea to speed the composting. The pile is mostly dead leaves with very little green material. Thus, nitrogen must be added. The result is actually leafmold rather than the usual compost. It's great!

Trimmed the Podocarpus at the south-west corner of the house. Branches kept getting caught when I closed the overhead garage door.

Trimmed the Ficus benjamina on the front porch. It was hiding the doorbell button and growing out over half the porch.

Pruned the Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) in front. I'm trying to encourage new growth near the center of the plant. However, if I cut a branch too close to the center such that there is no foliage, the entire branch will die.

18 May

Scattered clouds, hazy sun, and mild to cool

Temp: 53-74
Humidity: 43%
Wind: 3-14

*** Begin Right Sidebar ***

Rant Alert!

I used Poast, which is generally effective in eliminating grass without damaging non-grass plants. I bought a pint of concentrate several years ago, and now it is almost used up. I can no longer find it in local nurseries. One nursery told me the Poast product was bought from BASF by Target Specialty Products here in southern California. I quickly found Target Specialty Products on the Web. Their Web site provides an interface for submitting messages inquiring about their products, so I asked them about retail sources of Poast. That was almost two weeks ago. They have not yet responded! Why do companies have E-mail addresses or Web mail interfaces if they have no intention of answering messages? How do such companies survive when they ignore potential customers?

*** End Right Sidebar ***

Sprayed grass killer in the circular bed, on the lower part of My Hill, in the parkway in front, and in the front rose bed.

The ivy hanging in Evelyn's bathroom (see 30 April) died. Either I was too late treating it for spider mites, or else it was just unsuited for the location. Today, I took cuttings from a golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) growing in a hanging pot in our breakfast room and put them in the pot hanging in the bathroom. I expect success since root nubs already exist along the stems.

Something ate one of the "red clover" (Persicaria capitata) I had planted in the front lawn — not one of the rooted cuttings I planted last week but one I planted about two months ago. I suspect snails although I rarely see them in front.

15 May

High, thin clouds; hazy sun; and mild

Temp: 60-83
Humidity: 23%
Wind: 5-15

Cut back the peppermint. It was beginning to extend into the pot with the sage. What a great aroma from cutting this mint!!

Trimmed the ground cover at the edges of the walkways along the rose and teardrop beds. Along the latter, I also trimmed the lower branches of the Cuphea. I don't care if the plant extends out over the walkway; it softens the edge and hides the bender board. But the lower branches also hide weeds that are growing in the walkway's decomposed granite.

Trimmed the red fescue from the walkway and from around some of the Nandina and society garlic.

So many buds are now breaking on the guava, I made the last pruning cuts to it. I even see some flower buds forming. But it's late for it to flower, so I won't expect fruit this year.

Removed a lower branch and shortened some other branches on the loquat (Eriobotrya japonica). The tree is still a sapling and bends too easily in the wind. Now the wind should affect it less.

Trimmed the gardenia, removing puny and dead branches. I noticed a forked branch had split; the appearance indicates this happened some time ago. I would remove the entire branch, but it's full of flower buds. So I'll wait until it's finished blooming; in the meantime, I reduced the weight on both sides of the fork by removing shoots without flower buds.

13 May

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 55-84
Humidity: 21%
Wind: 3-11

Yesterday, the exterminator came by and setup two bait stations for the brown squirrels that poach my fruit. Contrary to what I thought, these are not baited traps but merely devices that contain toxic bait and that are designed to admit only squirrel-size animals. They do not attract birds, and Cleo (the tortoise) cannot fit through the openings.

The bare, leafless branches that remained after I pruned the azaleas and Pittosporum now show buds breaking. The plants always look so traumatized after pruning — almost dead — that the appearance of tiny green nubs is a very welcome sight.

Walking past the trellis that separates the west bed in the back yard from the side yard, I kept dodging to one side because the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) growing on it was extending well out over the walk. This morning, I trimmed back the vines. I hated to do this because they are in full bloom right now, but I need the full width of the walk to move the trash bins.

Finished pruning the small Rhaphiolepis indica by the front door. Fed them to encourage new shoots.

11 May

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 50-76
Humidity: 35%
Wind: 0-13

Earlier this year, I renovated my pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana), pruning it so severely that most branches no longer had any foliage. Since this is a subtropical, broad-leaf evergreen, some die-back of the branch stubs is possible. To preserve certain key main branches, I left some branches extra long with their foliage intact. New buds are finally breaking through the bark, so I removed most of those remnant long branches. Only two more await bud break. To celebrate the breaking of buds, I tossed some ammonium sulfate around the bush.

Planted four more rooted cuttings of "red clover" (Persicaria capitata) in the front "lawn". Fed for the first time the four that I planted several weeks ago. This completes the portion of the front lawn between the driveway and the brick walkway. Eight plants might not seem like much of a ground cover in a space approximately 11x19 feet, but P. capitatum grows quite quickly. I also potted four new cuttings. I think I'll need about 12 for the larger area on the other side of the brick walkway.

Mowed the parkway in front by the mailbox. The cinquefoil (Potentilla neumanniana) has not yet grown thick enough to choke out weeds, which were growing well above this ground cover. While I was at it, I also mowed the rest of the parkway. As soon as I finish planting the main part of the front with Persicaria capitata, I will start rooting cuttings of Potentilla to speed its take-over of the parkway.

The unidentified flower that I mentioned yesterday is Aristea ecklonii, not at all an iris. It's not even mentioned in my copy of Sunset (1979). (Maybe I need a newer edition.)

10 May

Broken clouds, overcast with some sun, and mild to cool

Temp: 55-74
Humidity: 45%
Wind: 4-14

Finished renovating the Pittosporum tobira. Finally! The three plants had vertical branches higher than the eaves on my house. Now, they are all 3 feet or less. I scattered some general purpose fertilizer around them to encourage new foliage.

When I say general purpose fertilizer, it's usually some off-brand lawn food, without any weed killer or insecticide. When I buy it, I look for the most nitrogen per dollar. I also look for something that is not fast acting and that has some minerals (especially iron).

Pruned the 'Inga' azalea in the pot on the front brick walkway.

While grooming the 'Iceberg' rose in back, I found several broken canes. This is a florabunda rose, and the flower clusters were so massive — 15 or more blooms in some — that the weight of the wet flowers after the sprinklers ran was too great for new canes to support. I will have to cut this rose back significantly as I groom it.

I have a flower I cannot identify. It's an iris — not a bearded iris — with sprays of very small royal blue flowers. After the sun went down, the flowers closed. When one of the sprays has more flowers on it, I will cut it and take it to a nearby nursery for identification.

The ant traps the exterminator gave me last week are not so great. One by the rose bed was filled with dead ants; the bait was gone. One by the circular bed was empty. And one by the peach tree had not been touched. I still see ants in all three places. I'm going to try a different brand, one that claims to provide a poison the ants carry back to their nest, which kills their young. Deprived of a next generation, the nest eventually dies. (Individual worker ants generally live only a few months. The queen ant may live a few years but will starve to death without worker ants to feed her.)

8 May

Clear (a few very thin, high clouds), sunny, and mild

Temp: 63-87
Humidity: 18%
Wind: 0-14

The last 'Formosa' azalea is almost through blooming. I started pruning it today, avoiding the few branches that still had flowers.

Trimmed the potted tarragon, which was becoming overgrown. Since I moved my older herbs — tarragon, peppermint, and sage — into 10-inch pots from the previous 6-inch pots, they are thriving. The newer herbs — dill, oregano, basil, and thyme — also seem to be doing well.

Climbed The Hill to tie down new branches on the grape vines. I do this more to direct growth than to support the branches. By the time the grapes mature and become heavy, the tendrils on the branches will have tight holds on each other, on the main scaffold limbs, and on the supporting wire and will not need the ties I made.

Sheared some of the pinks (Dianthus) to encourage vigorous new growth. I failed to do this last year, which left the plants quite shaggy.

The new canes on my climbing 'Chrysler Imperial' rose are too fragile. Twice in the past week, canes broke when I tried to bend them slightly to tie them down. I can easily bend the new canes on my climbing 'Peace' into graceful arcs.

Above this point, I no longer make entries for grooming flowering plants or pinching shoots, which I do almost daily, unless something is noteworthy.
6 May

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 55-87
Humidity: 14%
Wind: 5-14

The exterminator service made its monthly visit today. Since the focus is on preventing household pests, that would not normally be worth an entry here. However, this time I made arrangements for the installation of two squirrel bait stations in the back yard so those cute but hungry rodents won't destroy my fruit crops the way they did in previous years. By the end of the year, I hope to harvest (in this order) peaches, grapes, guavas, oranges, and kumquats, all of which I have seen squirrels devour. Of course, with the very severe pruning I did to the guava bush, I might not get any fruit from it this year. The bait stations should be in place next week.

The exterminator also gave me three ant bait traps for the garden. The major problem with ants is that they protect other insects that harm my plants, living on the sweet syrupy excretions from aphids, mealybugs, and scale. If these traps are successful, I'll buy some more. I noticed ants are already swarming around them.

5 May

Clear (a few high clouds to the north), sunny, and hot

Temp: 58-90
Humidity: 17%
Wind: 2-12

Since the back yard was dry this morning, I plugged in my electric drill and drilled a hole in the slough wall for a screw eye to tie down two new canes of my climbing 'Peace' rose. Then, I finished watering The Hill.

Raked the walkways in the back yard. While I did clean up some leaves and other debris, the real purpose was to smooth the surface. The walkways are decomposed granite (DG). If I walk on them while they are wet (e.g., right after the 12:30 "spritz" from the sprinklers), I leave footprints, which then harden. I might have to buy more DG to fill in some uneven spots.

Pruned another of the small Rhaphiolepis indica by the front door. They formed such a thicket that it is hard to tell to which plant a branch is attached. Now, I think there are four plants, which means two more to cut.

Next week, I plan to plant some rooted cuttings of "red clover" (Persicaria capitata) in my front lawn (or where the lawn used to be). Today I dropped two handsful of gypsum at each spot. As the sprinklers rinse the gypsum into the heavy clay soil, it will make digging easier. Since the area is full of roots from nearby trees and shrubs, however, I will still have to use a post-hole auger to do the digging.

4 May

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 75-97
Humidity: 15%
Wind: 0-23

Watered The Hill. There are three sets of rainbird sprinklers. I ran two of them 30 minutes each. Since I got a late start, I'll have to do the third one tomorrow. I only do this once in two weeks. This keeps the deep soil sufficiently moist so that the plants I want thrive and so that I don't have to worry about the soil cracking down to the subsoil. Weeds generally do not get a start because the top inch or two of soil is usually too dry.

Groomed the roses and iris. Tied down two new canes on climbing 'Peace'. Two more new canes should be tied, but I'll have to drill into the slough wall for the screw eyes. Everything is too wet for me to start with my electric drill today. I wanted to tie down a cane on climbing 'Chrysler Imperial', but the cane broke while I was bendng it.

3 May

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 77-98
Humidity: 11%
Wind: 4-22

Began renovating the last Pittosporum tobira (severe pruning). Got half of it done before the heat became too much. With the bin for garden waste now half full, I'll leave the rest of the renovation until next week.

Increased the timing on the automatic sprinklers. Checked to make sure the sprinklers in front give proper coverage and that none of the heads are clogged or broken. For a change, none of them needed any work.

Groomed the roses in front. Yesterday, I did such a thorough job on the roses in back that they didn't need any grooming today.

Along the west side of the back yard, I trimmed the lawn away from the walkway. I also trimmed some of the candytuft at the edge of the east bed and cinquefoil at the edge of the rose bed. I call this "widening the walkway".

When I went to use the barbecue to make dinner, I noticed the dwarf orange and the herbs were stressed from the heat and low humidity. While we usually have heat like this in the summer, the humidity is generally in the 30s and 40s, not in the teens and single digits. (Extremely low humidity like this usually comes in the late fall and early winter, when we get the dreaded Santa Ana winds.) I used the hose to give the orange and herbs some water. Tomorrow, I might have to give the lemon and kumquat some relief, too.

2 May

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 74-99
Humidity: 9%
Wind: 2-21

The heat wave has returned!

Groomed the iris and roses. Tied down a new cane on the climbing 'Chrysler Imperial' rose.

Climbed The Hill to tie up and pinch the grape vines. I expect a large crop this year (if the squirrels don't get it first).

Cut two artichoke buds. They were far too small to consider eating them. I left the central bud to bloom; I'll cut it before it fades so the plant is not weakened.

30 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 50-85
Humidity: 12%
Wind: 1-16

Groomed the bearded iris and roses again. Among the iris, only 'Study in Midnight' is still blooming.

The only azaleas still blooming is one 'Formosa' in back and the potted 'Inga' in front. Today, I finish pruning all the other azaleas. While doing one that Ken identified as 'Alaska', I found a nursery tag that identifies it as 'Mrs. G. G. Gerbing'.

The artichoke growing out of the back lawn is about ready to bloom. This is the first year, and the buds are really too small for eating. Because allowing it to actually bloom weakens the plant, I'll cut the flowers off shortly after they open. Using a piece of rebar, I poked four holes in the soil around the plant and poured superphosphate into them. This will promote more vigorous flowering next year, when I hope to get eating-quality buds.

Against a bright light, I noticed spider mites in the potted ivy hanging in Evelyn's bathroom. I took the pot outside and fed it with a fertilizer that contains a systemic insecticide. This is a constant problem with trying to grow anything in that bathroom, which has a nice skylight and good humidity.

Made some adjustments to the sprinkler heads in the back yard. Also trimmed some of the lawn that was interfering with two heads. The coverage is much better now, but I think some more work might be needed along the west end of the garden.

Trimmed the third large Rhaphiolepis indica growing in front by the sidewalk. This only involved the lower branches, leaving the flowers on top.

Tomorrow is the grand opening of the Oak Park Community Garden, to be operated by the Oak Park Gardeners (a committee of the Community Foundation for Oak Park) on undeveloped land owned by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. This finally meets a need that I saw 20 years ago.

29 April

Partially cloudy, hazy sun, and mild

Temp: 51-72
Humidity: 42%
Wind: 3-12

My Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) is not thriving. According to Sunset, it needs excellent drainage and is susceptible to chlorosis (which can be caused by alkaline soil and is often aggravated by poor drainage). My soil is heavy, sticky clay that drains poorly and is somewhat alkaline. Today, I dumped a good amount of gypsum around the tea tree; gypsum reacts with clay to make it granular and improve the drainage. Then, I dosed the tree with two handsful each of soil sulfur, ammonium sulfate, and iron sulfate and three pinches of zinc sulfate. All of these will acidify the soil. The ammonium sulfate will also provide nitrogen to promote new growth. The iron and zinc sulfates will provide the trace metals whose unavailability often causes chlorosis (unavailable because they are not soluble in an alkaline environment).

While I was doing the tea tree, I also put two pinches of zinc sulfate on each of my dwarf citrus and on my gardenia, all of which seem to need more zinc than most other plants.

28 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 64-85
Humidity: 31%
Wind: 3-11

The heat wave is over! And the relative humidity is above single digits. Hooray!!

Ken returned and repaired the feed line for the sprinklers in the back yard. In the meantime, I refilled the hole around the replaced sprinkler by the Pittosporum tobira. I'll have to check for about a week to see if my garden is getting proper irrigation.

Groomed the iris and roses. The faded blooms on the 'Study in Midnight' bearded iris stained my hands as if I dipped them in purple ink.

Since the Rhaphiolepis indica by the front door has finished blooming I started pruning it. I completed one bush. I think there are four bushes; but they created such a thicket and it has been so long since I did this, I can't really remember. These are supposed to be a compact variety, but they are now larger than the non-compact variety down at the sidewalk. They will again be compact when I am through cutting them.

Although the R. indica down at the sidewalk are still blooming, I was able to trim two of them away from the sidewalk and the brick walkway to the front door. This is not the year for renovating those shrubs, but they were interfering with the sprinklers. The sidewalk and brick walkway now look much wider. The garden waste bin is overfull, so I'll have to finish trimming these — and renovating the R. indica by the front door and the P. tobira — next week.

27 April

Clear, sunny, and

Temp: 79-101
Humidity: 3%
Wind: 7-25

Just a week ago, the daytime high temperature was lower than last night's low.

Sprinkler woes:
  • Ken (who designed and installed the new landscape for my back yard last year) came over and finally freed the sprinkler head in the Pittosporum in my front yard. The riser was indeed steel and had corroded badly (but was not yet leaking). I quickly drove over to a nearby irrigation supply store and bought a 14-inch plastic riser and a Hunter shrub head. It's now high enough for the spray to clear the fallen leaves but low enough that it won't be blocked by new Pittosporum growth.
  • While he was at my house, I had Ken check a soft spot in the walkway in the back yard. The spot lines up with an underground water line for sprinklers there. Yup! There is a leak. Ken will have to come back tomorrow to fix it; he did not have all the supplies with him.
  • I discovered a dry area at the west end of my back yard. It's caused by various plants — iris, myrtle, society garlic, etc — blocking recessed sprinkler heads that are either in the adjacent walkway or the lawn beyond. I may have to modify other heads since I can't risk someone tripping on a raised head in the walkway and hurting himself or having a head break when the lawn is mowed.

While he was here, I asked Ken to identify two plants in the landscaping he installed. Both are weeds! I also asked him about two clumps of iris. They're not bearded iris, for which the blooming season is now ending; these are just getting ready to bloom. Ken said I'll have to wait until they actually bloom before the plants can be identified.

26 April

Clear, sunny, and HOT

Temp: 72-98
Humidity: 6%
Wind: 4-20

We won't likely see any rain until October or November

I had to run the sprinklers in front manually to check the head by the Pittosporum. I forget when I wrote my last diary entry that the 12:20 "spritz" is only in the back yard. The head was buried under about 3 inches of well composted leaves and cypress "fallout". It's an old Champion popup head with a steal riser. Since the buildup of compost is now filled with roots, I want to replace it with a Hunter head on a taller riser rather than dig away the compost. But I could not get it loose. I left a call with my favorite garden contractor.

Groomed the iris and roses. This is an ongoing activity while they are in bloom: spring for the iris and March through December for the roses. The climbing 'Peace' rose stretches 20 feet horizontally with flowers at this time of year every 3-4 inches; this takes the most effort. Later in the year, the roses will bloom sporadically, not all at once; then, grooming them will not be so time-consuming. While this activity requires constant attention, I do enjoy it.

Climbed The Hill to tie the grape vines to their supporting wire. I also pinched the tips of some shoots rather than tie them. The 'Perlette' grape had already reached the center post. I cut back several shoots at that point. While Cleopatra loves to eat the grapes the wasps have spoiled, she was definitely not interested in the young shoots I pinched away.

While on The Hill, I trimmed the oleanders away from two rainbird sprinkler heads. I noticed the last time I watered The Hill, the oleanders interfered with those heads.

Pruned some more azaleas, this time in the circular bed. Only two remain in bloom there; one 'Alaska' and one 'Formosa'. One 'George Taber' remains in bloom in the camellia bed.

As a reward for excellent blooming, I fed the roses. Each got two handsful of ammonium sulfate, except the climbing 'Peace' (which got three handsful) and the potted miniatures (which got a half-handful). While feeding them, I noticed a root sucker on 'Color Magic'; I was able to pull it out completely, including a piece of root.

24 April

Clear and sunny

Temp: 62-89
Humidity: 8%
Wind: 2-16

No rain since 1 March.

For the first time in many years, Evelyn and I had breakfast on the patio — lox and bagels. The air was still. Although there was a slight chill, the sun warmed us. One of my potted amaryllis was in bloom on the table.

Groomed the bearded iris and roses. The 'Wenatchie Skies' iris is almost done with blooming, but 'Batik' and 'Study in Midnight' still have many blooms. I cut many faded roses from the climbing 'Peace' and gave them to Cleopatra (our tortoise), who made a real pig of herself eating the petals. Someone broke off a flower from 'Mr. Lincoln' in front; I could tell by the appearance of the stub that it was not cut. I fixed it.

While pruning the roses in back, I noticed the grape vines need to be tied and pinched again. I'll have to do that later in the week. I just don't feel like climbing The Hill today.

One 'George Taber' azalea is not quite through blooming, but the other two are now done. I already pruned one. Today, I did another. I also started pruning the 'Inga' azalea in the oblong pot in back; some branches need to finish blooming before I can finish. I don't think I'll prune the 'Inga' in the bowl in front because it really doesn't need it.

Camellia 'Thomas D. Pitts' is done for the year. The last bud failed to open and fell off. I finished pruning the bush.

On the timer for the automatic sprinklers, I increased the every-other-day watering to 8 minutes per session (two sessions before dawn). I also set it to start a once-daily sprinkling of 2 minutes at half past noon to cool things off and keep the humidity up. I better remember not to be in the garden at that time.

Last week, I filled the bin for garden trash after only pruning half the middle Pittosporum in front. Today, I finished that job. I'll have to wait until after the trash is collected on Friday to do the last Pittosporum. After that, it will be time to renovate the Rhaphiolepis indica by the front door (with severe pruning); they have already finished blooming. The R. indica by the sidewalk (still blooming) will have to wait until next year except for some minor trimming away from the sidewalk and brick walkway.

When the sprinklers start their 12:30 "spritz", I should check the sprinkler head by the Pittosporum. I can't even find it. It's covered with dead leaves and the fallout from my neighbor's Italian cypress.

Weather data are from the Cheseboro (CHE) weather station.

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

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 on the same day).

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