It has been a very dry winter here in SF Bay Area, but thanks to the miracle of hoses and running water, the gardens are green. I’ve just done a late-winter thinning and pruning through the upstairs containers and the downstairs in-ground garden.
As spring approaches, stuff is starting to burst up everywhere. Here’s a container featuring purple potato shoots and fumitory, a pretty herb in the poppy family recently imported from a friend’s back yard. Also present are runner bean tubers, just starting to bud out. You can see last year’s dried bean vines, still climbing the deck support on the left.
Also upstairs, this self-contained rotting log (every garden should have one!) bursts with life. It’s just received a light sprinkling of seeded compost, adding nutrients and a bit of new soil. The tall sapling is a privet sprout, seedling of a long-removed giant privet tree that once shaded the upstairs deck. Also present on the rotting log: grasses, sedge, foxglove (the sprout at the bottom of the thin cleft, just to the right of the base of the privet sapling), fringed willow-herb, wild strawberry, two kinds of sorrel, lamb’s quarter, chickweed, a small unidentified Salvia, and much more.
This container has just been cleared of a huge mass of chickweed, which provided lots of delicately flavored salad greens while it was still young and tender. Now it’s been removed to give the strawberries room for the coming growing season, and more rich, seeded compost has been spread for nutrients and new sprouts. That’s an English holly sapling on the right; it will get its own container when it gets bigger.
Winter in Bay Area is a good time to grow peas, and here are some climbing up onto the deck support. I plant all kinds of seeds all year, but the peas seem to do best in cooler weather. The tender shoots are good in salads.
The big change downstairs was the removal of a dense magnolia tree that was shading most of the garden. For this picture, I stood right where the tree’s trunk was. Now that it’s gone, some plants are struggling to adapt. The tall bush with red flowers is a cape honeysuckle that is showing lots of new leaves. The new leaves are different, darker and denser in the suddenly bright sunlight. The section in front on the right, below the honeysuckle bush, is scheduled for major replanting with sun-lovers instead of the invasive, shade-loving, and unwanted periwinkle currently suffering there in the bright sun.
In a deeply shady part of the garden, Coprinus mushrooms poke up. Also seen this winter: shaggy mane mushrooms (another kind of Coprinus) and honey Armillaria (from the base of a dying, now removed hedge bush).
A stand of bearded iris mingles with little winter cress. The bearded iris hopefully will bloom this year, now that the magnolia tree is gone. The iris bloomed profusely when it was in a pot in the sun, but here in the ground it’s been bloom-free for three years.
( Update: Oh yes, it bloomed! )
Here’s evidence of spring: blueberry buds expanding. Last year this little blueberry bush offered nine berries on five stems. The year before, it bore four berries on two thin stems. This year we’re shooting for twenty berries, and it looks like there will be at least fifteen branches. Coffee grounds scattered under the blueberry bush give it the acid conditions it likes.
The chard plants have to be started upstairs in the shelter of some bird netting, because there are tiny brown and black juncoes that come around and eat up the swiss chard seedlings, and also the pea seedlings. Once the seedlings get big enough, the birdies leave them alone.
The garden here at the apartment is just a couple of dozen containers and a tiny postage stamp of earth, but it is a wonderful slice of ecosystem. One does not need a lot of space to help preserve the planet’s species diversity.