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My Garden Diary

November and December 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
June-July 2004
August-October 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 December

Mostly cloudy, occasional sun, and cold

Temp: 44-51
Humidity: 85%
Wind: 0-13

Rain —
Season: 10.12
Week: 4.91

The rains came! We had about 3 inches in a 24-hour period! And the winds were over 30 miles per hour with gusts over 60. But today the sun was shining (at least for a few minutes in the morning), and the winds calmed.

Because the soil is so saturated from the rain and because even more rain is expected tonight and tomorrow, I scatted generous amounts of gypsum in the beds in back where plants are sensitive to wet soil. This meant thoroughly covering the camellia, teardrop, and circular beds; but the other beds also received gypsum. I finished an almost-empty bag and then used most of a new 50-pound bag. The gypsum (calcium sulfate) reacts with the clay in the soil to make it more porous and to improve drainage.

The downpour we had earlier in the week packed down the compost pile. I "fluffed it up" and then tossed some urea granules on top. The coming rain will rinse this high-nitrogen fertilizer into the pile to speed the decomposition of leaves I added last week.

(New Year's Eve: The expected rains did indeed fall, another 0.85 inch by noon today.)

17 December

Clear, sunny, and cool

Temp: 58-71
Humidity: 17%
Wind: 10-30 (gusts to 51)

Rain —
Season: 5.21
Days since last: 9

We are definitely in a Santa Anna condition: warmer than usual, persistant winds, and low humidity. The winds have moderated somewhat today; yesterday, prevailing winds were 19-36 mph with gusts as high as 78 mph. For more than two days, the relative humidity has stayed below 30%, generally below 20%.

Finished pruning the peach tree. There is a large pile of branches on the ground because the trash bin for garden waste is already full. Fortunately, today is when trash is collected. Tomorrow, I'll cut up the branches so they will fit into the bin (after I partially fill the bin with leaves).

15 December

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 63-73
Humidity: 20%
Wind: 3-32 (gusts to 53)

Rain —
Season: 5.21
Week: 0.01

*** Begin Right Sidebar ***

Rant Alert!

Why is it that workers in construction trades seem to have no regard for the landscaping around a house where they are working.

  • Not only was the same sprinkler head broken twice during my current project, but neither time was I informed. Both times, I had to discover it myself, quite accidentally.
  • At their request, I gave the outside painters a pruning saw and lopping shears to trim the fern pines and Burford holly from in front of my house. I don't think they used the tools. When I look at the jagged stubs, I can tell they merely broke branches away.
  • Until I complained, debris from unpacking my new windows littered my front lawn. The subcontractor who installed the windows considered his job complete without cleaning up his mess.
  • Exterior workers of all kinds would rather step on an azalea than step over it. After all it towers at least 18 inches high. Branches were also broken on my camellias and hollies.

*** End Right Sidebar ***

The same sprinkler head that was broken when the outside of my house was painted (22 November) was broken this week when we had most of our windows replaced. Fixing it delayed me from pruning another limb of the peach tree. Since the windows were replaced on Monday, that also meant the sprinklers ran early this morning with a broken pipe. I also picked up more broken azalea branches, this time in the camellia bed.

Raked the lawn, and raked it some more. The Oak Park Gardeners came and took three large bags of leaves for their community compost, which is deficient in "brown matter". I have no room in the trash bin or my compost pile for more leaves, and I'm almost through mulching the beds. I haven't even raked the patio or most of the walkways. Yet, as I finished today's pruning, the lawn looked like I had not raked at all.

Stirred the compost pile while adding more leaves (which went to the bottom of the pile). Finally, after almost a year, it looks like I will actually be able to sift some compost soon.

Pruned another limb of the peach tree. Only one more limb to go. Despite the uncertain future for the tree (13 December), I am pruning for renewal and not merely to promote a good crop of fruit next year.

13 December

Clear, sunny, and cool

Temp: 44-69
Humidity: 61%
Wind: 0-9

Rain —
Season: 5.21
Week: 0.20

Raked leaves in the back. I started raking the patio, walkways, and lawn. However, I realized that I would soon fill the trash barrel; the large green bin was already full. Since The Tree has begun serious shedding, I decided to concentrate on the lawn so that excessive leaves don't smother the red fescue (Festuca rubra). This past spring, the lawn had dead patches because of accumulated leaves.

Pruned another limb on the peach tree. Pruning gives me a chance to examine the tree closely. Although I spray for bark borers in the spring, they still invade the major limbs and branches. I can see extensive areas of dead bark and exposed wood. The tree will have to be removed either the end of next summer or the year after. Peach trees remain vigorous for only 10-15 years, and this is already the second tree in that location.

11 December

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 63-82
Humidity: 30%
Wind: 0-9

Rain —
Season: 5.21
Week: 0.53

Pruned the peach tree some more. Finished the limb I started yesterday. Since this is a form of renewal pruning, it means I have to cut away some larger branches to encourage newer branches. Those larger branches have old wood that is rather hard, and I have only a hand pruning saw to cut them. Further, each branch must first be evaluated to determine if I will keep it or cut it. Thus, it might take a week to finish the entire tree.
10 December

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 58-76
Humidity: 35%
Wind: 5-20

Rain —
Season: 5.21
Week: 0.53

Started pruning the peach tree. The tree has four main limbs, and I finished half of one limb.

Noticed some significant frost damage to the Cuphea hyssopifolia in the teardrop bed. I'm not concerned because these plants resprout nicely in the spring. What's surprising is that damaged plants are still putting out new flowers.

9 December

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 47-69
Humidity: 60%
Wind: 1-12

Rain —
Season: 5.21
Week: 0.53

For the first time in over a week, I could go out into my garden without a coat, let alone without an umbrella.

Besides the usual maintenance — raking leaves and removing dead flowers — the only real task I did today was pruning the fern pine (Podocarpus) at the south-west corner of my house. The painters (30 November) really butchered this tree. However, it was well overdue for thinning. After I did a few more corrections, it now looks better than before the painters started.

30 November

Partially cloudy, mostly sunny, and cold

Temp: 41-58
Humidity: 14%
Wind: 4-16

Rain —
Season: 4.68
Week: 0.08

We had several nights of frost. Last night, the weather report indicated a severe frost. So, just before going to bed, I went in back and hosed the citrus. Water on the foliage protects the plants from the worst of the cold.

However, last night's temperatures finally killed my basil. Since it's an annual, it was already struggling to survive the approach of winter; so its demise was expected.

Gave my mailbox a "haircut", trimming the Hahn's ivy (Hedera helix 'Hahn's') growing on it. I think that, when the weather warms in the spring, I might renovate the ivy by cutting it back to its main branches. I might do that also for the ivy growing around the liquidambar tree.

After raking leaves in front — again — I started to clean up the damage from having the exterior of my house painted. In front, the painters trimmed the dwarf Burford holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana') and fern pines (Podocarpus) away from the house. I'm still picking branches out of the leaf mulch on the lawn. And there were several broken branches in the holly and Pittosporum tobira around on the side that required trimming.

In back, nothing needed to be trimmed by the painters. Still, they managed to break branches in the 'Pride of Dorking' azaleas near the airconditioner and in several of the Camelia japonica under the dining room window. There is also debris from masking windows now lying in the various beds. I'm so glad the exterior painting is done. The house does look very nice; it was about three years overdue for painting.

22 November

Clear, sunny, and cold

Temp: 41-61
Humidity: 43%
Wind: 2-13

Rain —
Season: 4.60
Week: 0.03

Raked some more. I use the grass catcher from a lawn mower as a scoop or giant dustpan when raking. I took three loads of oak leaves from the front around to my compost pile in back. Oak leaves make the best leafmold, which is what my compost really is (containing very little green matter). Many more leaves went into the garden waste bin. The Oak Park Gardeners might collect them for the compost at our community garden. Otherwise, the trash hauler will take them to the county's composte project.

While taking a load of leaves to the compost pile, I noticed a sprinkler head on the patio. The riser was broken off right at the base of the head. I'm having some repairs and painting done to the house and the paint crew spent the morning power-washing the stucco. One of them must have accidentally kicked the head and broken it; it was some 20 feet from where it belonged. It was simple and quick to repair, but I had to go out and buy a 30¢ riser. The garden supply store removed the broker stub from the head. I am upset because the contractor's employees should inform me when something like this happens so that I can indeed make repairs before turning on the sprinklers.

18 November

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 59-79
Humidity: 24%
Wind: 4-13

Rain —
Season: 4.57
Days since last: 22

Raked some more. I used the leaves in back to mulch the azaleas in the circular bed. Some of the leaves in front went onto the portion of the parkway where I have not yet planted cinquefoil (Potentilla neumanniana), to smother seedling weeds that are sprouting. The rest of the leaves went into the garden waste bin to be collected tomorrow.

Scattered gypsum and soil sulfer in the teardrop bed around the tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) so that winter rains will not cause chlorosis.

Taped the wood handle of my lawn rake. The rake is quite old. I got it from my parents well more than 35 years ago, and it wasn't new then. Every time I used it, I got splinters in my hand. Hooray for duct tape (the narrow kind)!

Should have planted my rooted cuttings of red clover (31 August) two weeks ago, but I forgot to put this task on my calendar. Today, I dropped two handsful of gypsum at each spot where they will be planted. In about three weeks (when my calendar now says the cuttings will be planted), the soil should be easily dug.

14 November

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 54-69
Humidity: 32%
Wind: 18-33 (gusts to 55)

Rain —
Season: 4.57
Days since last: 18

The Santa Ana winds are upon us again.

Our son, Allen, came for breakfast this morning (lox and bagels). After eating, he helped me transfer the dwarf 'Robertson' navel orange tree from its decaying redwood tub into a new terracotta pot. In the process, only one branch was broken. I trimmed that and several other branches so that the demand on disturbed roots would be reduced.

Raking leaves while the wind blows and even more leaves are falling might be a Sisyphean folly. But if I didn't do it today, soon I would be overwhelmed with more leaves than I need for mulching, more than I can add to my compost pile, and more than I can cram into the garden waste bin for collection. Today, I even had to rake in back — twice.

12 November

Clear, sunny, and cool

Temp: 49-69
Humidity: 40%
Wind: 4-19

Rain —
Season: 4.57
Days since last: 16

Raked more leaves in front. I again used the leaves to mulch around the oak (Quercus lobata) and where the lawn used to be — where I'm planting red clover. All areas in front are now well mulched.

The only significant leaf fall in back is from the peach tree, whose leaves are now bright yellow. Most of those leaves have fallen directly below the tree, where I want them as a mulch. I raked the few that fell onto the adjacent walkway into the camellia bed, which also needs a mulch.

Turned over the compost pile in anticipation of adding leaves to it, now that they are no longer needed as mulch in front.

8 November

Partially cloudy, hazy sunny, and cold

Temp: 50-61
Humidity: 69%
Wind: 2-15

Rain —
Season: 4.57
Days since last: 12

Raked more leaves in front.

My Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata) is coloring much better than last year. From gold, through red-orange, all the way to burgundy, it almost has the same colors that my liquidambar (Liquidambar styraciflua) will soon have. Other zelkovas down the street show bright yellow and flame red. It's quite nice. I forgive my tree for dropping its leaves for me to rake.

In the back, fall color is being provided by the peach tree, grape vines, and asparagus, all of which are bright yellow. The Tree has dropped a few leaves but not enough to rake yet. This tree, I won't forgive.

6 November

Partially cloudy, sunny (sometimes hazy), and cool

Temp: 50-67
Humidity: 48%
Wind: 2-9

Rain —
Season: 4.57
Days since last: 10

Began serious raking of leaves. Today, they were all in front. Those leaves I dumped where the lawn used to be. This will make a good mulch for when I plant more red clover (Persicaria capitata) cuttings.

Made another 0.5 cubic foot of potting mix for when I move my dwarf orange. I put some more into the large flower pot that I will use. I reserved the rest for packing around the sides after potting the tree.

3 November

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 58-72
Humidity: 23%
Wind: 2-15

Rain —
Season: 4.57
Days since last: 7

Over the weekend, discovered Home Depot does not carry peat moss in compressed bales; when I asked for gypsum, I was shown a sand-like product used as a decorative topping. Monday, I bought a 50-pound sack of gypsum and a compressed bale of peat moss at Green Thumb in Canoga Park, once again proving that — if you want real garden supplies — you must go to a real garden nursery, not a hardware store (30 October).

Yesterday, bought two pails of washed plaster sand at Thousand Oaks Building Materials for $1 each or about $1.33 per cubic foot (not the $3 per cubic foot that Do-It Center wanted).

Today, mixed a large batch of potting mix for repotting my dwarf 'Robertson' navel orange. Only after I remeasured the pot and the depth of mix at the bottom, did I realize that "a large batch" was only 0.5 cubic foot.

Started cutting back the edible asparagus (A. officinalis). I need to minimize the number of berries that drop. Otherwise, I'll have asparagus coming up all over the yard.

Weather data are from the Cheseboro (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)

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

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