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My Garden Diary

January and February 2005

Copyright © 2005 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.

Also see What's Blooming in My Garden Now?

April-May 2004
June-July 2004
August-October 2004
November-December 2004

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 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.

Date and Weather Observations and Activities
25 February

Partially cloudy, sunny (sometimes hazy), mild

Temp: 45-67
Humidity: 65%
Wind: 0-12

Rain —
Season: 30.09
Week: 6.30

30.09 inches of rain so far! And more expected next week. Last year at this time, we had accumulated only 4.15 inches for the entire season, less than what fell in the past seven days. In neighboring Los Angeles, the total for the season has already broken all 20th century records. The only years with more rain were two in the 19th century.

A hummingbird built a nest on a tiny twig at the top of the potted Ficus benjamina on my front porch. From the window of my second storey bathroom, I can look down into the nest. Every time someone goes in or out of the house through the front door momma bird (or is it pappa?) gets nervous and flies away. I hope this doesn't impair the hatching of the two eggs, which are the size of small peas.

Severely cut back the penstemon in the east bed. This should promote stockier growth this year. In the process, many seedlings from The Tree were exposed. Pulling them is a never-ending battle.

The excess rain is turning my soil back into heavy adobe clay, both by the force of the rainfall packing down the soil and also by leaching away the gypsum (calcium sulfate) that I added to break up the clay. Today, I broadcast over 50 pounds of gypsum both in front and back. I didn't rinse any of it into the soil. The soil is still quite saturated, and next week's rain sould suffice.

Around the Liquidambar tree in front and in the teardrop bed in back (where I have an Australian tea tree), I added iron sulfate, zinc sulfate, and Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to the gypsum. I spread this mix (with soil sulfur) around the trees less than a month ago (31 Jan) to counteract chlorosis, but I'm sure the rain has removed these highly soluble metallic sulfates. This time, I did not add sulfur around the trees. It's not very soluble until after soil bacteria convert it into sulfuric acid.

I did not put gypsum on the lawn in back. I'll do it later, when I feed the lawn in April. I also did not do the rose bed in back. This bed might have to be replanted after My Hill is repaired (11 Jan). In any case, much of the rose bed is now buried under mud.

After also clearing a clog from a small section of roof gutter, I'm exhausted. I have spent over two weeks just watching the rain and waiting for a little dry weather so that I could work in the garden. Thus, I've had little exercise. Now, even my flab has flab.

9 February

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 49-65
Humidity: 39%
Wind: 3-15

Rain —
Season: 20.41
Days since last: 11

The President finally declared a federal disaster, covering Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. The storm that battered us, hit southern Utah 1-2 days later, causing extensive damage there. Although our disaster happened earlier, the President declared a federal disaster for Utah three days earlier than he declared ours. I suspect politics were involved with Utah cutting in line ahead of California.

Gave the peach tree its second dormant spraying. I also sprayed the miniature roses.

Went to replace the red clover (Persicaria capitata) that was trampled in front last year when we had our house painted and the windows replaced. However, I discovered that several plants that I thought were lost are now resprouting under the leaf mulch. I planted two rooted cuttings where plants failed earlier, before the work on our house.

Did some serious weeding in the parkway. The dandelions are in full bloom.

3 February

Clear, sunny, and cool

Temp: 54-63
Humidity: 20%
Wind: 5-32 (gusts to 59)

Rain —
Season: 20.41
Week: 0.38

As usual, I forgot to prune and spray the miniature roses on my patio. I pruned them today. They might have tiny flower and stems, but their thorns are full size. Ouch! I'll give them a dormant spray when I give the peach tree its second dose.
1 February

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 55-67
Humidity: 22%
Wind: 11-30 (gusts to 58)

Rain —
Season: 20.41
Week: 0.38

Almost forgot! Last week, I got a phone call from a master gardener who handles home-gardening questions for the Ventura County's agricultural extension office. He informed me that it was a raccoon that stole my grapes last year (15 Aug 04), not birds (19 Aug 04). To protect my crop, I would still need to use bird netting. However, I would have to place it under the vines and then bring it up, protecting the underside from the thieves. This is likely a moot issue now, since the vines will likely have to be removed to repair My Hill.

Sprayed the peach tree and roses with a mix of dormant oil and copper sulfate. The oil smothers insect eggs that are over-wintering on the plants. The copper is a fungicide. This may be the only preventive spaying I do. I generally wait until I see an actual problem before spraying.

Why is it that, when I pick up my sprayer, the wind begins to blow? As soon as I put it down, we have a dead calm. It took me almost twice as long as usual to spray today because I had to stop every time the wind began again. I've even noticed the wind increase just as I start to measure the spray mixture and then stop completely when I get into the shower to clean up.

31 January

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 52-64
Humidity: 26%
Wind: 5-32 (gusts to 51)

Rain —
Season: 20.41
Week: 0.38

Two plants in my garden that are especially sensitive to chlorosis are the Liquidambar styraciflua and the Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) in back. Chlorosis can be caused by either poor drainage or alkaline soil. I have both! With buds swelling and new growth starting, I gave both plants a special treatment today. I mixed gypsum, soil sulfur, iron sulfate, Epsom salts, and zinc sulfate and applied a generous amount around each plant. The gypsum (calcium sulfate) reacts with the adobe clay in my soil to make it more porous and drain better. All of those ingredients acidify the soil. The gypsum, iron sulfate, Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), and zinc sulfate also provide necessary trace metals in soluble form that become insoluble in alkaline soils.

Pruned the 'Peace' climbing rose. As with the 'Chrysler Imperial' climbing rose (24 Jan), I pruned it far more severely than would be necessary for promoting good growth and flowering. Again, some branches that I cut could not be removed since they extend under the mud slide on My Hill. It's good that my philosophy of rose pruning includes removing all remaining leaves from last year. I noticed that many old leaves were seriously infected with rust. I'll have to use dormant spray soon.

24 January

Thin, high clouds; hazy sun; mild

Temp: 56-69
Humidity: 51%
Wind: 1-12

Rain —
Season: 20.03
Days since last: 13

Finally removed the last of the mound of leaves from the patio. I still have to rake the side yard where the trash bins are stored and against the house.

Pruned the 'Chrysler Imperial' climbing rose. I cut it back severely to only three canes so that it won't interfere with repairing My Hill. For that reason, I did not tie down the canes. Some of the canes that I cut could not be removed because they disappear into the slide.

Slightly trimmed the Burford holly next to the 'Chrysler Imperial', just enough so that it no longer crowds the plants in front of it. As I indicated before (18 Jan), I won't be able to really prune the holly until next year. I might even have to replace one or two of the bushes.

The pink penstemon that appeared to be dying (18 Jan) is coming back. I trimmed it short. Having learned a lesson last year (18 Jul 04), I will pinch them back as they sprout.

18 January

Partially cloudy, hazy to full sun, and mild

Temp: 63-73
Humidity: 33%
Wind: 11-23

Rain —
Season: 20.03
Days since last: 7

Picked the first kumquats of the season. Mmmm, good!

The pink penstemon in the rose bed seems to be dying, perhaps a result of the excessive rains we have had starting last month (almost 7 inches since New Year). The red penstemon nearby at the north end of the east bed are still thriving and even blooming.

The warm weather after frosts and heavy rains is bringing out all kinds of flowers and weeds.

Pruned the 'Arizona' and 'Color Magic' roses in back. I'll also have to prune the climbers — 'Peace' and 'Chrysler Imperial'. However, when My Hill is repaired, I might have to untie them from the slough wall. The 'Iceberg' and 'Cherish' roses are buried under the mud that slid off My Hill.

I can't prune the Burford holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana') in the rose bed as I had planned. African daisies (Osteospermum fruticosum) slid down My Hill and tangled with the holly bushes, creating a barrier that is preventing more mud from sliding into the rose bed.

17 January

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 60-71
Humidity: 26%
Wind: 6-28 (gusts to 48)

Rain —
Season: 20.03
Week: 0.45

Another geological engineer came to see the damage on My Hill. She was not only dubious whether my grape vines could be saved; she also indicated it might be necessary to bring the toe of the slope farther into my yard, eliminating the guava bush (Feijoa sellowiana), rose bed, and circular patio. The guava has been there almost 30 years and has limbs 2-3 inches in diameter. She also indicated that it might be possible to have two "jogs" in the toe, one at either end to protect the guava and little patio.
14 January

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 50-68
Humidity: 24%
Wind: 0-10

Rain —
Season: 20.03
Week: 6.11

A geological engineer came to see the damage on My Hill. While the slide was only in the center, he said there is a wide crack all the way across the top. I asked him if my grape vines could be saved. (When I had a slide in 1992, the repairs involved clearing all vegetation from the entire slope.) The engineer did not seem real optimistic, but he also did not give an absolute "No".
13 January

Cloudy, occasional hazy sun, cold

Temp: 48-61
Humidity: 37%
Wind: 0-9

Rain —
Season: 20.03
Week: 6.11

Finished pruning the roses in front. Some are already sprouting. I hope I can do the dormant spraying before it's too late. I just don't know when I can do the roses in back or whether the grape vines can even be salvaged.

A geological engineer was supposed to come out a see My Hill today, but he postponed the appointment until tomorrow. This is the first required step towards repairing My Hill. I'm waiting for return phone calls from at least two other engineers. Another engineer wanted $800 just to look! I told him to forget it.

11 January

Partly cloudy, occasional sun, and cold

Temp: 43-49
Humidity: 70%
Wind: 17-32 (gusts to 45)

Rain —
Season: 20.03
Week: 6.83

For the first time in several days, the sun came out (at least for a little while). And for the first time in four days, the rain finally stopped. Too late! As it did almost 13 years ago, My Hill decided to become part of my lawn.

I'm so upset that I can't even think of gardening. It's not safe to climb what's left of the slope to prune the grape vines. At least one rose bush — 'Iceberg' — has disappeared, buried under a pile of mud.

When this happened in 1992, the entire hill had to be cleared of vegetation. It was almost three years before it began to look nice again and four years before the new grape vines had decent crops. In the meantime, I had to keep climbing My Hill to clear weeds in order to give the new plants a chance to thrive. I was in my early 50s then; I'm now in my mid-60s.


6 January

Partly cloudy, occasional sun, and cold

Temp: 41-55
Humidity: 53%
Wind: 0-13

Rain —
Season: 13.21
Week: 3.09

Roof-top frost remained until after 8:00am this morning.

With rain predicted for tonight and heavy rain for tomorrow, I decided to begin pruning my roses today. I did four of the seven roses in front before I decided it was too cold to continue. Some of the bushes seemed to lack vigor this past year. I really like the flowers, and I hope I don't have to replace them.

5 January

Partly cloudy, occasional sun, and cold

Temp: 44-51
Humidity: 85%
Wind: 3-10

Rain —
Season: 13.20
Week: 3.11

Wet, Wet, WET! Last year at this time, in the 2003-2004 rainy season, we had accumulated only 2.00 inches of rain.

My Hill is far too wet for me to climb and prune the grapes. The rose beds in back and front are far too wet for me to prune the roses. Usually, I'm more than half done with those tasks by now.

I did rake the back lawn. Most leaves from The Tree have already fallen, so there was enough room in the garden-waste bin for me to dispose of the mounds of leaves that I raked last month from the lawn onto the walkways.

Weather data are from the Cheesebro (CHE) weather station, a little less than 1.2 miles ENE of my house.

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 before then end of the day).

Rain is in inches. Rain amounts are omitted after 60 consecutive days elapse without any measurable amount.
Season is the cumulative amount of rainfall since the start of the current rainy season, which began on 17 Oct 04 with the first measurable rain in 229 days, until noon on the indicated date.
Week is the cumulative amount of rainfall from noon seven days ago until noon of the indicated date. If no 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.

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)

November-December 2004
August-October 2004
June-July 2004
April-May 2004

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