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My Garden Diary

March and April 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
January-February 2005

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
29 April

Partially cloudy, partially sunny (sometimes hazy), mild

Temp: 47-70
Humidity: 53%
Wind: 0-9

Rain —
Season: 32.41
Week: 0.76

Did the follow-up spraying of fungicide on the roses (19 Apr).

Did some corrective pruning of the two Podocarpus trees flanking the brick walkway in front. The tree on the west side of the walkway — which grows vigorously — only needed some of the longer side branches headed and the "hangers" removed. The tree on the east side needed more drastic work. It never was vigorous, and the leader was quite puny. I headed the leader to about 2 feet above a vigorous, limber side branch, which I then tied upright to the stub of the leader to make a new leader. When that side branch becomes firmly vertical, I will remove the remainder of the old leader. I then fed this tree with ammonium sulfate to try to boost its growth. (I didn't touch the third Podocarpus, on the west side of the garage. It needs to recover from the butchering it got from the painters (15 Dec 04).)

While feeding the tree, I also gave the Ficus benjamina on the front porch a couple of pinches of ammonium sulfate.

Now that the eugenia are resprouting from their renovation pruning (20 Mar), I did a little touch-up pruning.

27 April

Mostly cloudy, occasional hazy sun, and cool

Temp: 48-66
Humidity: 60%
Wind: 2-13

Rain —
Season: 31.65
Days since last: 23

Had the lawn in back mowed yesterday. Today, in anticipation of rain tonight and tomorrow, I broadcast almost a full 50-pound sack of gypsum on the lawn and then fed it. Since the grass was wet from the sprinklers, I then rinsed everything down onto the soil to prevent the fertilizer from burning the foliage.

Fed the roses with ammonium sulfate.

22 April

Very mixed: Partially to completely cloudy, sunny to dark gray, occasional showers, cool

Temp: 53-62
Humidity: 77%
Wind: 0-16

Rain —
Season: 31.65
Days since last: 18

Although we had some rain showers, it was insufficient to be measurable.

Some of the house plants in the breakfast room greenhouse window show signs of pests. The Sprenger asparagus (A. densiflorus 'Sprengeri') has mealy bugs. The schefflera (S. arboricola(?)) has scale. I fed all the house plants — even the pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum) hanging the skylight in Evelyn's bathroom — with a fertilizer that contains a systemic insecticide.

Yesterday, I scattered some mothballs on the lawn where some animal has been relieving itself (19—Apr). It didn't work. Today, there were fresh droppings right on top of the mothballs. I finally made contact with the lawn service. The lawn will be mowed next Tuesday. I hope they don't get any nasty surprises. (I did warn the service's owner that a cleanup might be needed first.)

At their monthly meeting last night, the Oak Park Gardeners had a guest speaker discussing orchids. For many years, I had a Phalaenopsis in the greenhouse window that bloomed repeatedly; but then it died. There will be a local orchid club show in June. I might go and buy a plant or two.

19 April

Scattered high clouds, mostly sunny, and cool

Temp: 47-64
Humidity: 39%
Wind: 0-18

Rain —
Season: 31.65
Days since last: 15

*** Begin Right Sidebar ***

I had a neighbor who would walk her dog down our street, letting the dog relieve itself on my front lawn. I told her that, if she did not clean up her animal's mess, I would start using her front lawn as my toilet (for myself since I had no dog). Ever after, she walked her dog on the other side of the street.

*** End Right Sidebar ***

Some animal has been using my back lawn as a toilet. With continuous walls and fences, it can't be a dog; and a cat would usually bury its mess. Thus, I think it might be a raccoon or possum from the nearby open space. Also, a dog left a "present" on my front lawn.

Removed the abandoned hummingbird nest (12 Apr) from the Ficus benjamina on my front porch. I also did some minor trimming of the Ficus and swept the bird droppings off the porch.

Sprayed fungicide on the roses. Over half the foliage on 'Paradise' in front is severely infected with rust, while all the roses in back show signs of mildew.

Mowed the weeds in the parkway in front.

Did some minor trimming of the myrtles (Myrtus communis 'Compacta') in back. While they can be sheared into formal shapes and even topiary, I am only interested in keeping them compact. I prefer the informal billows and textures of an English garden over the formal planes and geometry of a French garden.

15 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 57-83
Humidity: 21%
Wind: 0-12

Rain —
Season: 31.65
Days since last: 11

The old lady finally woke up. She went to sleep last October and awoke earlier this week. No, she was not in a persistent vegetative state. Cleopatra (an ancient beauty) hibernates from mid-October to mid-April every year. Cleo is a desert tortoise we adopted 28 years ago (when we estimated her age as about 15 years) through a joint program of the California Department of Fish and Game and the California Turtle and Tortoise Club. Today, I fed Cleo a faded rose; she also devoured a fortnight lily bud (Dietes iridiodes) and nibbled on the lawn. Yes, Cleo is legal and officially registered with the Department of Fish and Game.

Hung shade cloth over the greenhouse window. This breakfast room window is on the north side of the house, but the house is not square on the compass. Thus, during the months that Cleopatra roams the backyard, sun shines directly on the plants in the window unless I protect them with shade cloth.

Adjusted the ties for the 'Fourth of July' climbing rose. I want the two longest canes to form a V with one cane growing towards my neighbor's house and one towards mine. The latter cane was not cooperating, so I now have additional twine pulling it in the right direction.

Stirred the compost pile. I thought I might be able to sift it soon, but the leaves are still too recognizable. It just hasn't "worked" long enough.

12 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 56-77
Humidity: 26%
Wind: 1-14

Rain —
Season: 31.65
Days since last: 8

Oh, oh! The hummingbird nest appears abandoned. No eggs or young, and no brooding mama.

Fed the Liquidambar and Eucalyptus ficifolia trees with a mix of ammonium sulfate, iron sulfate, and a generous amount of gypsum. Both trees are sensitive to poorly draining soil (thus the gypsum) and readily show symptoms of chlorosis (thus the acidic mix).

Also fed the potted herbs with just a pinch of ammonium sulfate each.

Raked the decomposed granite (DG) walkways in back, cleaning up the residue from trimming the edges of the lawn and the fallout from The Tree. I also swept the patio. With a shovel, I picked up some DG that had eroded from the walkways onto the patio and returned it to some low spots on the walkways.

Sprayed patches of weeds with Roundup.

10 April

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 50-74
Humidity: 26%
Wind: 0-17

Rain —
Season: 31.65
Week: 0.01

Planted perennial pinks (Dianthus) in the circular and east beds.

Trimmed the lawn away from the patio and from the gardenia and daylilies growing near the patio.

The hummingbird nest is being reused. The current residents are not the same as before (6 Apr). Their bills curve differently. This momma laid some eggs.

6 April

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

Temp: 62-84
Humidity: 20%
Wind: 2-7

Rain —
Season: 31.65
Week: 0.01

Glad I left the hummingbird nest in the Ficus benjamina (31 Mar). Either the family was not finished using it, or else a new family has moved into it.

*** Begin Right Sidebar ***

About Fertilizers

The azalea and camellia food that I was using was 5-10-5, but a new package of the same brand that I just bought is 12-8-10. Azaleas and camellias really don't need much nitrogen (the first number). I hope the new package is not too strong and provides enough phosphorus (the middle number) to promote next year's bloom.

While the off-brand lawn food that I use (27-4-6) has more nitrogen than does ammonium sulfate (21-0-0), I use more of the latter. It disolves more readily and provides more of the acid that is needed in my alkaline soil. Also, in terms of dollars per pound of nitrogen, the ammonium sulfate is cheaper. I use the lawn food where I want a balanced mix of nutrients.

*** End Right Sidebar ***

Although the pink clover in front is spreading, the lawn still looks barren. The pink clover will not be an effective cover for several months yet. In the meantime, I seeded marigolds in the larger part of the area. First, I raked the leaf mulch aside, making a wide stripe across the lawn. I then divided a small batch of my favorite 50-50 mix of peat moss and sand in thirds, mixing the seeds of a different variety of marigold into each third. I carefully placed the mix on the stripe in three bands, with the tallest variety of marigold in back and a miniature variety in front. After lightly sprinkling the area with water, I carefully returned the leaf mulch and watered again.

Trimmed the Cuphea in the teardrop bed some more (4 Apr). Then I fed the bed with an off-brand lawn food.

Finished trimming the lawn along the walkways. I also trimmed where daylilies grow out of the lawn. Afterwards, I fed the daylilies, heavenly bamboo, and society garlic, using the same fertilizer I used on the teardrop bed.

Fed the Camellia sasanqua in the east and rose beds (except for one in the rose bed that is partially buried by the slide from My Hill). I used a commercial azalea and camellia food. I also gave the dwarf citrus a little snack of ammonium sulfate.

Yesterday, I bought a six-pack of perennial Dianthus to plant in the circular and east beds. But by the time I finished feeding the citrus, I was exhausted. I'll have to plant these later this week.

4 April

Cloudy (sometimes partial), gray with occasional hazy and even full sun, cool

Temp: 46-62
Humidity: 42%
Wind: 1-22

Rain —
Season: 31.65
Week: 0.04

Sprayed the peach tree and roses to prevent flat-headed bark borers. This and the earlier dormant spraying (1 Feb and 9 Feb) are the only preventative spraying I do.

Trimmed the Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum), removing some of the very lowest branches and some down-hanging growth. It will never really look like a tree, but I want it to grow more upright.

Also trimmed the Cuphea hyssopifolia growing around the tea tree in the teardrop bed. I was much more judicious in this, trying to avoid killing the plants, as happened when I sheared the Cuphea in the rose bed last summer (9 Jul 04).

Trimmed more of the back lawn along the walkways. I almost finished where the heavenly bamboo alternates with society garlic. Before I was exhausted, I also weeded around the potted herbs.

31 March

Clear, sunny, mild, and windy

Temp: 55-68
Humidity: 16%
Wind: 6-52 (gusts to 71)

Rain —
Season: 31.64
Week: 0.03

The wind was so strong, it blew two flowerpots off the counter outside the kitchen window even though they were heavy with moist potting mix. I had to run out and buy two new pots to replant the zygocactus (Schlumbergera) and an amaryllis (Hippeastrum) that is in full bloom.

The baby hummingbirds (6 Mar) grew up and flew away. The nest at the top of my potted Ficus benjamina is now empty. I'll remove it next week, when I'm sure it has been abandoned.

Trimmed more of the back lawn along the walkways. Now I've reached where the heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) alternates with society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). As soon as I finish trimming around those plants and the nearby daylilies, I'll call the lawn service for my semi-annual mowing.

Gave my neighbor from across the street a brief tour of the back yard. I picked a few lemons for him. There are several clusters of full-sized, ripe lemons on this dwarf tree.

27 March

Overcast, hazy sun, and mild

Temp: 53-75
Humidity: 35%
Wind: 2-14

Rain —
Season: 31.61
Week: 0.82

Fed the four roses in back that were not buried by the mud slide from My Hill. I noticed that an exposed branch from the buried 'Iceburg' rose is in leaf and about to bloom.

Continued trimming the back lawn along the walkways.

25 March

Clear, sunny, and cool

Temp: 43-64
Humidity: 41%
Wind: 1-16

Rain —
Season: 31.61
Week: 1.14

Mowed the weeds in the parkway in front. Some weeds appeared too thick for mowing, so I had to pull them by hand first.

There are six 'Powis Castle' Artemisia in back, which I cut back late last fall. Three are now regrowing nicely. Two are regrowing on one side but — after starting to regrow — are now declining on the other side. One is completely declining, looking quite wilted. I cut away the bad sides of the two "half-and-half" Artemisias, but I can't do anything with the one that is completely wilted. I also took new cuttings from the three that are doing well, just in case I have to replace one or more of the others.

Continued trimming the back lawn along the walkways.

21 March

Scattered clouds, mostly sunny, and mild

Temp: 46-66
Humidity: 47%
Wind: 1-23

Rain —
Season: 30.79
Week: 0.37

Planted the last two rooted cuttings of pink clover. I'll have to wait until warm weather induces vigorous growth before I can take new cuttings.

Started trimming the back lawn along the pathways. In the process, I also weeded a section of pathway. After My Hill is repaired, I'll have to top the pathways with fresh decomposed granite to replace what the rain storms washed away.

Counted more than 20 ripe lemons on my little dwarf lemon tree.

Fed the miniature roses growing together in a large pot on the patio.

20 March

A few clouds, mostly sunny, cool, and breezy

Temp: 47-58
Humidity: 68%
Wind: 7-20 (gusts to 36)

Rain —
Season: 30.79
Week: 0.37

When I exchanged the mislabeled azalea (17 Mar), I also bought basil and dill plants. Today, I potted them.

Finished pruning the eugenia along the east edge of the front yard. The first one I did (10 Mar) already has new buds swelling.

Fed the front yard except for the pink clover, which I fed earlier (8 Mar). Since more rain is expected, I didn't bother to rinse the fertilizer into the soil.

17 March

Cloudy, occasional hazy sun, cool

Temp: 50-68
Humidity: 49%
Wind: 2-11

Rain —
Season: 30.42
Days since last: 13

The azalea that I planted last week (10 Mar) is definitely not 'George Taber'. Instead of silvery pink with red markings, it's pure white — possibly 'Alaska'. I dug it up and took it back to the nursery where I bought it. They allowed me to exchange it for a 'George Taber' already in bloom. While looking for a replacement plant, the sales person and I found several azaleas labeled 'George Taber' that were beginning to bloom, also all white. We also found one labeled 'Formosa' (a hot magenta) that was obviously 'George Taber'. The nursery will be contacting its grower real soon. I planted the replacement azalea as soon as I returned home.

Pruned one more eugenia, to fill the garden waste bin. There are two more remaining to be pruned.

16 March

Scattered thin clouds, hazy sun, and mild

Temp: 53-74
Humidity: 34%
Wind: 1-15

Rain —
Season: 30.42
Days since last: 12

Finished feeding the roses in front. While digging in the fertilizer mix, I noticed the soil was only slightly damp at the surface. I'll have to start watering the roses soon. (But rain is expected this weekend.)

Adjusted the sprinkler heads in the rose bed in back to spray only away from the mud from My Hill. Then I set the clock to include that circuit. This way, I can keep the plants at the back of the back yard alive until My Hill is repaired.

15 March

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 54-70
Humidity: 20%
Wind: 3-22

Rain —
Season: 30.42
Days since last: 11

Started feeding the roses in front. I made a mix of the following (from most to least abundant):
  • peat moss, to provide long-term improvement in the soil's tilth
  • gypsum (calcium sulfate), to break up the adobe clay, promote root growth, and speed the movement of nutrients to the rose roots
  • ammonium sulfate, to promote vigorous growth
  • superphosphate, to promote blooming
  • iron sulfate, to make the leaves green
  • Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), to promote the formation of new canes
  • soil sulfur, to acidify the soil (beyond what the sulfates will do)
  • zinc sulfate, to promote bud growth

I dug this mix into the soil in two quarter-arcs, one on each side of a rose bush. Because the soil is so heavy, I quit after doing four bushes. I should be able to finish before the end of the week.

Trimmed the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), which had a sudden spurt of spring growth. I mostly headed long shoots to make the plants more compact, especially on the south side of the trellis I made.

14 March

Clear, sunny, cool, and windy

Temp: 49-64
Humidity: 13%
Wind: 1-33 (gusts to 63)

Rain —
Season: 30.42
Days since last: 10

The nondescript flowers on The Tree form in sprays of thin, many-branched clusters. When they fall, these sprays create a coarse fluff, which today's wind gathered into large blobs. In back, I raked them from the patio, walkways, and lawn. Some went into the compost pile, which I stirred. The rest went into the garden waste bin. I even had to rake some from in front of the house and remove fluff that had tangled in various bushes and other plants. This is the worst year of this mess.

While raking the lawn in back, I noticed how much better it's growing than at this time last year. I think this is because I had it mowed last October and was then able to rake away the fallen leaves.

Dropped gypsum around the six 'Powis Castle' Artemisia in back. Someone suggested that the soil was just too wet for them, which is why some are wilting (possible root rot).

Fed the back. I use an off-brand lawn food that maximizes the amount of nitrogen per dollar. This feeding included the east, teardrop, circular, and west beds. I skipped the rose bed because I don't want to encourage new growth before the bed is impacted by repairs to My Hill. I also skipped the camellia bed, which gets fed after all camellias and azaleas have finished blooming. Similarly, while feeding the circular bed, I avoided feeding the azaleas there. I did not feed the lawn, which will be fed next month after it's mowed; but I did feed the shrubs and perennials that are growing in the lawn.

Pruned two more eugenia in front. Also trimmed some of the ivy growing around the Liquidambar styraciflua.

Tested the sprinklers in front. Unlike those in back (10 Mar), none needed any repairs or adjustments.

10 March

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 65-81
Humidity: 34%
Wind: 2-15

Rain —
Season: 30.42
Week: 0.16

Fed the dwarf citrus. I had planned to wait until the end of the month since frost is possible through then. However, the "trees" are sending out new shoots already, and the navel orange has flower buds that are ready to open.

Planted the 'George Taber' azalea that I bought last week. Digging out the dead stump of the azalea it replaced was quite a chore, with large roots from all directions. The stump itself held onto a significant amount of soil, which I replaced with peat moss and a little sand (both stirred well into the native soil). I also stirred a large handful of bone meal into the hole before setting the new plant.

With the heat and low humidity, the soil is beginning to dry. I turned on the clock for the automatic sprinklers for the first time since December. However, I set the circuit for the rose bed in back to "off" because it would otherwise water the bottom of My Hill and the dirt that slid into the rose bed; these must all dry before My Hill can be repaired.

As usual when I start the automatic sprinklers after an extended shut-off, I tested the circuits in back. One popup head did not popup until I gave it a tug; when I shut that circuit off, that same head did not retract. I started to adjust it, but the whole thing came apart in my hand. Fortunately, I was able to reassemble the head; and it now works fine. I saved several dollars and a trip to the hardware store.

Started pruning the eugenia (Syzygium paniculatum) along the east edge of my front yard. This is a major renovation, similar to the severe pruning I did to the Pittosporum tobira last year (10 May 04). With pulling weeds and cutting the ivy on my mailbox (8 Mar), I only did two of the eugenia shrubs before the garden waste bin was full.

8 March

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 52-73
Humidity: 58%
Wind: 3-10

Rain —
Season: 30.42
Week: 0.28

Fed the pink clover (Persicaria capitata, sometimes called red clover in earlier Diary pages) in front. I also added some gypsum. Although the soil is still quite moist, I had to water the plants to rinse the fertilizer and gypsum into the soil.

Renovated the ivy on my mailbox. Last year, I often trimmed the ivy away from the door, off the curb and driveway, and closer to the post, calling it a "haircut" (e.g., 30 Nov 04). If that was a haircut, this time I scalped it bald! I do this every few years in the early spring. Within a few weeks, new growth will again hide the mailbox.

6 March

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 49-71
Humidity: 31%
Wind: 4-17

Rain —
Season: 30.42
Week: 0.33

The eggs have hatched! (25 Feb) Momma hummingbird seems more calm now. She stays on the nest as we go in and out through our front door.

The rains expected last week were not enough to rinse the gypsum into the soil (25 Feb), so I had to hose down the beds in back. (I did the front last Tuesday.)

Raked and swept a lot of fallen fluff from The Tree. Most went into the garden trash bin, but I used some as a mulch around my camellias.

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a 1 gallon 'George Taber' azalea from a local nursery to fill in a hole where one had died in the camellia bed. I picked it up the past week, along with a purple-leafed sage (Salvia officinalis), a 1 gallon bay (Laurus nobilis), and a French lavender (Lavandula dentata). The sage replaces a potted herb in back, which I had for several years but which died this winter. Today, I potted the sage and bay. I hope to plant the azalea later this week. The lavender will replace the Spanish lavender (L. stoecchas) that I have in front after the latter finishes blooming; the Spanish lavender is declining and looks quite ratty.

I'm concerned about some of the 'Powis Castle' Artemisia in back. Two of the plants seem to be wilting after putting out new growth.

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)

January-February 2005
November-December 2004
August-October 2004
June-July 2004
April-May 2004

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