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My Garden Diary

June and July 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.

Also see What's Blooming in My Garden Now?

April-May 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
30 July

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 58-91
Humidity: 36%
Wind: 6-11

Mowed the weeds in the parkway. The cinquefoil is spreading nicely but not enough yet to crowd out the weeds. (Repeating what I said 22 June.)

Dosed the tea tree with acid: iron sulfate, ammonium sulfate, Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), and gypsum (calcium sulfate). This time, I omitted soil sulfur. I've used enough sulfur already. It acts very slowly as soil bacteria convert it into sulfuric acid.

I've been picking 'Perlette' grapes every 3-4 days. They are soooo sweet. Cleo (our tortoise) loves to munch on the grapes that fall on the patio when I rinse them with the hose nozzle.

The kumquat is in full bloom now. Generally, it has another burst of blooming about six weeks later.

24 July

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 60-93
Humidity: 35%
Wind: 0-15

I think the dill is about done. There are just a few leaves left. For breakfast this morning, we had lox and bagels. I minced a dill shoot (mostly stem) to sprinkle on the lox. YUM! The other annual herb on the walkway between the lawn and the circular bed is basil, which is still going strong. I keep picking off the flower buds to prolong its life. (Unlike the leaves, the flower buds are bitter; I discard them.) The basil might remain vigorous until a winter frost kills it. The perennial herbs — peppermint, thyme, sage, tarragon, and the recently replanted oregano — all seem to be thriving.

Since it will not have any fruit this year, I did some corrective pruning on the dwarf orange tree. It has a lot of new growth since its last feeding (7 July), so I shortened some of the branches. This will keep the top growth commensurate with the confined roots.

The kumquat will be in bloom very soon.

Picked more bunches of 'Perlette' grapes. I tried a grape from each of three different bunches of the 'Black Monukka', some of which already have a good color. While the flavor is good, there is no sweetness yet. It might be another two weeks before they are ripe.

The climbing 'Peace' rose is temporarily out of bloom, so I did some summer pruning. I tied down some new canes to provide candidates for the scaffold when I prune in the winter. I shortened the other long canes, especially those that threatened to block the adjacent walkway.

20 July

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 69-98
Humidity: 24%
Wind: 6-14

A crew from Ventura County removed my neighbor's street tree today. In a dead calm last Friday morning, the tree — a Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata), the same as my street tree — split and dropped a major limb well more than half-way across the street. Although the County cleaned up the mess, I still blame the County for the loss of a valuable shade tree that was about 35 years old. Every 5-10 years, a County crew would come through the neighborhood and trim the street trees. Their only concern was to ensure clearance under overhanging branches for the trucks that collect our trash and for the street sweepers. As a result, the pruning done by the County encouraged the trees to grow with V crotches. Jules Janick warned in his Horticultural Science (W.H. Freeman, 1963) against pruning practices that result in V crotches.
Narrow-angled branches are weak and tend to break under pressure because of the lack of continuous cambium and the inclusion of squeezed-off bark in the crotch.
I never let the County crews touch my zelkova. I used to prune it myself and now have a commercial tree service prune it. As a result, my zelkova has strong U crotches.

Stirred and then watered the compost pile. Started from scratch at the end of last year, it finally appears to be decomposing. Since the process absorbs nitrogen (releasing nitrogen to the soil when composting is completed), I tossed some urea (45-0-0) onto the pile and rinsed it in.

Picked this year's first bunches of 'Perlette' grapes! I ate a small bunch — so sweet yet a little tart. It was a great lunch.

18 July

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 69-95
Humidity: 22%
Wind: 1-14

It's been too hot the past few days to do much more than minor puttering in short intervals.

Trimmed both sides of the walkway in back, between the east end of the lawn and the teardrop bed (after waiting until that area was in the shade). Fortunately, I insisted on walkways 3 feet wide, so the edges don't have to be trimmed every week.

The shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum) have been growing flopped over. As I groom them (removing dead flowers), I have been cutting them back severely. The newer flower buds are forming on shorter, stockier, upright stems. Next spring, I'll have to remember to pinch them back so the first blooms are also upright. (It works with the penstemon.)

The 'George Taber' azalea that was doing poorly (7 July) now looks almost dead. However, there is a new, vigorous shoot coming up from the base. Since azaleas are propagated from cuttings and not by budding onto unlike rootstocks, this is not a sucker. I'll keep hand-watering it, especially in this heat.

No oranges this year. The few that started have all fallen off the tree while still the size of garbanzo beans. I'm not surprised. The tree took a severe hit last year with spider mites. By the time new growth started this year, the tree lost most of last year's leaves.

13 July

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 69-99
Humidity: 9%
Wind: 4-11

Watered the hill. I forgot and left one set of sprinklers running while I ran some errands. I hate to think of the water bill!

Sprayed the grapes to protect the fruit from wasps, bees, and ants. After targeting the fruit, I had enough spray left over to do the foliage, an attempt to deny wasps a landing place for attacking the grapes. I used Sevin; the label indicates I can harvest the fruit the next day. While I noticed the 'Black Monukka' is starting to color, neither it nor the 'Perlette' will be ready for another week or two. In any case, I always thoroughly rinse the grapes.

The heat really got the roses in front. The plants themselves are okay, even growing more. But all the flowers suddenly "fried". With a hot spell like this, it may be a week or more before there are any new rose buds opening.

I saw a hummingbird really enjoying the lily of the Nile (Agapanthus orientalis) in back.

12 July

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 65-97
Humidity: 12%
Wind: 3-18

Switched some of the sprinkler heads in the back yard. I hope this improves the coverage. (Why is it that such a project requires, not one, but at least two trips to the hardware store?) In the meantime, I let the hose soak the west end of the rose bed and then the west bed around the guava bush (Feijoa sellowiana).

Climbed My Hill to check the 'Perlette' grapes. Some of the bunches look almost ripe, but they are still quite sour. They were not too sour for some critter that stripped a bunch almost clean. I plan to spray tomorrow, after I run the hill sprinklers (a biweekly task).

The CDs hanging from the branches of my peach tree and the rodent bait stations seemed to have worked. The only damage to the fruit has been from wasps. Once they bite into a ripe peach, bees join them. Some peaches were almost black with bees and wasps. Fortunately, they spared enough fruit that Evelyn and I — and our neighbors too — are quite full of peaches.

9 July

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 54-87
Humidity: 34%
Wind: 0-15

Finished weeding the east bed in back (5 July). The three most significant weeds are seedlings from The Tree, spotted spurge (Chamaesyce maculata), and scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), although I also removed grasses of various varieties and Oxalis corniculata.

Have you ever noticed how weeds often hide within or under desired plants until they are too large to just pull? Sometimes, they even mimic desired plants (e.g., grasses looking like spring bulbs or daylilies).

Trimmed both sides of the edges of the walkway in back, along the north-west end of the lawn.

Put a very small amount of fertilizer in the oblong pot containing three azaleas in back. While the center azalea is doing quite well, the two flanking plant are quite puny.

I may have burned the Cuphea in the rose bed when I fed them, or I might have trimmed them at the wrong time (22 June). However, I have seen apparently dead Cuphea resprout.

Yesterday, I traded some of my peaches for some great navel oranges my friend Harvey had just picked in his garden.

7 July

Scattered clouds, sunny (sometimes hazy), and mild

Temp: 56-89
Humidity: 28%
Wind: 5-11

Fed the dwarf citrus, adding two pinches each of zinc sulfate and Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), which are lacking in the current formulation of commercial citrus food.

Trimmed the east end of the lawn around the society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) and heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) and from the edge of the adjacent walkway.

One of the 'George Taber' azaleas in the Camellia bed is not doing well. I think the sprinklers are not watering in that area. I've been hand watering it to see if it improves.

5 July

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 56-87
Humidity: 40%
Wind: 1-15

Picked more peaches for Evelyn's baking. This time, she made peach betty. The consensus (in which Evelyn agreed) was that the betty was good but not as good as the peach crisp (3 July).

Weeded the east bed in back, around the peach tree. Filled my 5 gallon pail to overflowing twice.

3 July

A few, thin, high clouds; sunny (sometimes hazy); and mild

Temp: 56-81
Humidity: 45%
Wind: 1-14

Hand-watered the camellia bed, potted herbs, and other plants. This was necessary because, after spraying yesterday, I shut off the automatic sprinklers. (I made a mess on the walkways, dragging the hose on the wet decomposed granite.)

Planted four cuttings of red clover that I rooted (11 May). Fed those that I previously planted. Took four new cuttings.

She did it! My dear Evelyn baked peach crisp from the peaches I picked yesterday. It was sooooooooo good.

2 July

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 56-80
Humidity: 45%
Wind: 1-15

The Epiphilum are showing new growth, indicating the rooted cuttings have recovered from the trauma of being repotted. So I fed them with a pinch of ammonium sulfate in each pot.

Fed the roses, each with two handsful of ammonium sulfate except for the climbing 'Peace', which always gets extra because of its size.

The dwarf orange has a few new leaves that are curled, very much like the curling I saw last summer that finally defoliated the plant. This is a symptom of spider mite. I sprayed all the dwarf citrus with malathion. I also sprayed the artichoke, on which I actually saw the tiny mites, and the Artemisia, which is badly infested with black aphids.

One of the azalea cuttings ('George Taber') finally has roots! I threw the other cutting (no roots) away. I then added a very small amount of bone meal and commercial azalea food to the potting mix and returned the pot to my greenhouse window in the breakfast room. If the plant survives having its roots disturbed, I will then harden it off outside in a shady place before planting it in the ground in my camellia bed.

Took cuttings of a pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum) growing in my greenhouse window. This is a plain green variety, not the more common variegated 'Aurcum' variety. The plant is quite leafless at the base and looks ratty. When the cuttings root, I'll discard the parent and plant them in the parent's pot.

Did some corrective pruning of the rosemary bush in front, primarily removing "hangers" (shoots growing downwards).

Removed some seedling and sapling oaks from around my California white oak (Quercus lobata).

Today's lunch was brie and crackers, a glass of wine, … and a fresh, juicy peach picked ripe from my tree just minutes before eating it. I picked several others and hope to convince Evelyn to make peach cobbler this weekend.

28 June

Clear, sunny, and mild; changing in late afternoon to partially cloudy, hazy sun, and cool

Temp: 57-78
Humidity: 54%
Wind: 2-8

Fed the blue fescue. Gave the dwarf citrus, miniature roses, and potted azaleas pinches of ammonium sulfate.

Picked two more peaches. The season is here! Unfortunately, peaches seem to all ripen at the same time; and they're quite perishable.

Tossed some more acid around the tea tree: sulfur, iron sulfate, zinc sulfate, and Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate).

26 June

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 66-93
Humidity: 18%
Wind: 3-15

Heather (our daughter) and Nancy (Heather's life-companion) arrived from Canada last night for a one-week visit. This morning, we ate breakfast on the large patio.

Showed Heather and Nancy the artichoke blossom. Five minutes later, I cut it off. Allowing an artichoke to keep its blooms weakens the plant.

Picked another peach and shared it with Heather. I noticed Cleopatra (our tortoise) snacking on a fallen peach.

25 June

Clear with a few high, thin clouds; sunny (sometimes hazy); and warm

Temp: 56-92
Humidity: 29%
Wind: 1-14

Sprayed the roses with fungicide, the one-week follow-up to the spraying I did on 19 June.

Happy birthday Mom, who is 94 today! I picked the first peach of the year from my peach tree and took it to Mom. I hope it is good.

24 June

Clear with a few high clouds, sunny (sometimes hazy), and warm

Temp: 54-90
Humidity: 34%
Wind: 0-15

Botanists spend far too much time reclassifying plants. My gardening task today involved updating these Web pages to reflect revised scientific names for plants in my garden, according to my new copy of Sunset's Western Garden Book (and to correct some spelling errors).
23 June

Morning: cloudy, gray, and cool
Afternoon: clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 56-83
Humidity: 50%
Wind: 3-16

Happy birthday to my dear wife, Evelyn! I love you so very much.

Sprayed Roundup. The targets were:

  • two seedling Pittosporum tobira that had grown too much to pull out
  • a clump of my neighbor's Sprenger asparagus (A. densiflorus 'Sprengeri') that she asked me to eliminate
  • seedling ash trees, babies of The Tree
  • weeds growing in the decomposed granite walkways in back and along the stepping stones that separate the camellia and east beds
22 June

Morning: cloudy, gray, and cool
Afternoon: clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 55-83
Humidity: 47%
Wind: 0-15

Tossed three piles of gypsum on the front lawn, where I plan to plant red clover in two weeks. I hope this makes it easier to dig then. I also tossed some gypsum around the Liquidambar tree in front, which shows signs of chlorosis, and around the tea tree in back, which always seems chlorotic.

Trimmed some of the white Cuphea in the rose bed in back and then fed them. They are all still blooming but past their peak. I want them to bloom again this summer. While trimming them, I noticed abundant Cuphea seedlings. I removed most because they were right next to other Cuphea, but I left one that was very well placed. I only trimmed about half of them, leaving the rest to continue blooming until those that I trimmed recover.

Mowed the weeds in the parkway. The cinquefoil is spreading nicely but not enough yet to crowd out the weeds.

Trimmed the dwarf ivy (Hedera helix 'Hahn's') around the Liquidambar tree.

20 June

Morning: cloudy, gray, and cool
Afternoon: clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 55-81
Humidity: 51%
Wind: 0-13

For Father's Day, my wife gave me just what I wanted — the newest edition (2001) of Sunset's Western Garden Book, replacing an edition that is 25 years old.

Fed the Aristea ecklonii in back. A major bloom period just ended, and I want it to bloom again this summer.

19 June

Typical June gloom —
Morning: cloudy, gray, and cool
Afternoon: clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 55-76
Humidity: 78%
Wind: 1-12

Sprayed the roses for mildew again. When I did it the last time (1 June), I forgot that a second spraying a week later is necessary. Now the mildew is back. I set a second spraying for next Friday.

Trimmed the ground cover around the leardrop bed.

Stirred and watered the compost pile. It was quite dry, even at the bottom. I should water it more often, even if I don't bother to stir it.

16 June

Cloudy, gray (occasional hazy sun), and cool

Temp: 56-68
Humidity: 77%
Wind: 2-9

Raked the walkways in the back, to smooth out footprints left while walking on the decomposed granite when it was wet and also to clean up some of the clippings left when I trimmed the lawn.

Heavily fed the artichoke with ammonium sulfate to mitigate allowing it to flower. My daughter is visiting from Canada the end of next week, and I want her to see how an artichoke flower looks.

14 June

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 56-85
Humidity: 36%
Wind: 0-11

The Rhaphiolepis just to the right of the front door is vigorously resprouting, following the very severe pruning I did last month. I gave them a "booster feeding" of ammonium sulfate to help them along.

Fed the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) in back. It's nearing the end of the current bloom period, and I want it to bloom again later this year.

Trimmed more of the cinquefoil and red clover away from smaller plants in the rose bed. I'll have to do this for the teardrop bed, too. However, the Cuphea there is in full bloom and attracting many, many bees. Having been stung while pulling weeds from that bed, I think I'll wait until the Cuphea stops blooming.

13 June

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 57-85
Humidity: 34%
Wind: 1-13

Trimmed some more of the back lawn from the walkways and patio. Also trimmed the cinquefoil (Potentilla neumanniana) and red clover (Persicaria capitata) in the rose bed away from the walkways and away from some of the smaller plants in that bed (Camellia sasanqua, Cuphea, and blue fescue [Festuca glauca]), which the cinquefoil and red clover were smothering.

Climbed My Hill to tie down the grapes again.

10 June

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 52-75
Humidity: 41%
Wind: 3-15

This is a great time of the year in my garden! All major spring activities have been completed, and it's too early for summer activities. Now, I can actually enjoy my garden without being a slave to it.

But today, I did slave away. Dosed the tea tree with more gypsum with a small amount of citrus food added for nitrogen, minerals, and acid.

Trimmed the lawn from the walkways and patio. At the edge of the patio, new sod had formed on top of the concrete, extending out 3-4 inches.

Dug, divided, and immediately replanted 'Soleil d'Or' narcissus bulbs that grow in front of the compact Rhaphiolepis indica near the front door. The last time I did this, I replanted about six bulbs. Today, I dug up more than 75 bulbs. After picking them over, I selected six for replanting. I dusted the five with sulfur to prevent rot and discourage insects. For each bulb, I dug a handful of bonemeal into the bottom of the planting hole, added about an inch of plain soil to keep the bulb from direct contact with the fertilizer, and then planted the bulb; the tips of the bulbs are about an inch below the surface. After they were all planted, I broadcast a generous amount of gypsum over the bed and watered it in. Previously, I would take the excess bulbs to work and let my co-workers help themselves. Now that I'm retired, I will donate them to the Oak Park Gardeners (part of the Community Foundation for Oak Park) to sell as a fund-raiser along with my excess epiphillum cuttings (3 June).

8 June

Cloudy, gray (occasional hazy sun), and cool

Temp: 56-67
Humidity: 63%
Wind: 3-16

Fed the roses in the back yard. Unlike the roses in front (30 May and 1 June), I did not apply any gypsum. The soil in back is much better than in front.

Tied down two canes of the climbing 'Chrysler Imperial' rose — without breaking them!

5 June

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 60-94
Humidity: 32%
Wind: 1-9

My son Allen came over this morning. After I rushed to brush the mineral crust off the bottom of the large pot containing my Ficus, he lifted it back into its saucer on the front porch. Since all the water I poured through the pot not only leached away several year's of salt build-up but also many nutrients (especially nitrates), I put a small amount of ammonium sulfate on the damp potting mix.

The peaches are a little over a month from ripening, and the grapes are starting to swell. I hung CDs on the peach tree and grape vines to scare the birds away. These were promotional (free) CDs, mostly from AOL. I drilled a small hole near the edge of each CD and hung it with about 6 inches of kite string.

3 June

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 57-90
Humidity: 33%
Wind: 3-14

The exterminator came this morning to check the bait stations. He told me that all bait had been eaten in one station. In the other station, there was a small amount left, on which a rat was dining when he opened the station. The exterminator assured me that the bait will kill rats and mice, not only squirrels.

The oregano that I potted earlier this year was failing (after a vigorous start). I replaced it.

The other "orchid" cactus (Epiphillum) finished blooming, so I potted the cuttings. Unlike the other one (28 May), this has no thorns at all except on the flower buds. The parent was in a plastic pot, which had cracked. When I went out to buy a new oregano plant, I also bought a new clay pot for it. I had some extra cuttings left over, so I potted those in quart plastic pots to give to the Oak Park Gardeners to sell as a fund raiser.

Climbed My Hill to tie and trim the grape vines again. The 'Perlette' grapes are already getting large. I'll have to start hanging CDs to keep the birds away. While I was up there, I trimmed some oleander branches away from the rainbird sprinkler head that was not working (1 June).

Gave the Ficus on the front porch a final soaking. Now I have to let it dry somewhat so that it is not too heavy for Allen to lift the pot back into its saucer.

Finally, the Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) in the circular bed in back is responding to the acid (sulfur, ammonium sulfate, iron sulfate, Epsom salts, zinc sulfate) and gypsum I gave it. It's showing lots of new shoots and leaves. I'll stop adding acid, but I plan to give it more gypsum.

1 June

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 62-91
Humidity: 28%
Wind: 2-14

Yesterday, our son Allen, Evelyn's brother-in-law Stan, and Stan's adult children Arnold and Amy came over for dinner. Before dinner, we all sat in the back yard, on the small round patio, nibbling chips, vegetables, melon, and grilled sausage. Although the temperatures were in the high 80s and low 90s (°F), The Tree provided cool shade. There was also a soft breeze. Overall, it was a day to enjoy the garden, not to work in it.

Watered My Hill this morning. Noticed that another rainbird sprinkler seems stuck.

Although June gloom is temporarily gone, its effects linger — especially the mildew it brought to my roses. Today, I sprayed the roses with a fungicide, paying special attention to new growth.

Finished feeding the roses in front today, which will promote new growth for a new attack of mildew when June gloom returns.

When Allen was here yesterday, he lifted the potted Ficus benjamina out of its saucer for me. Today, I gave the Ficus a light dose of gypsum and then twice watered the pot thoroughly. Between soakings, I used a steel brush on the saucer to remove an accumulated salt crust. I plan to water the pot again and again until the weekend, when Allen will return to put the pot back into the saucer. This way, I leach away the salts that have accumulated in the potting mix over several years.

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 before then end of the day).

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)

April-May 2004

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