Monthly Archives: April 2013


The first “domestic” (human-bred-for-hugeness) strawberries of the year are now almost ripe. This is the first year that the volunteer strawberries in the container garden are receiving the brand-new seed-free ultra-compost, and it shows. Just look at these beauties!

The red-veined stems in the left rear belong to another volunteer, a strapping young seedling of Swiss Chard. It will be relocated into a new pot before it outgrows this one.


130430-0814Yum. These are not the only nearly-ripe domestic berries. There are at least 30 more in various pots throughout the upstairs container garden. All of them sprouted as volunteers, right out of the seeded eco-compost (which contains many seeds of food plants, having been created partly from kitchen scraps).

The sturdy young plant pictured at right is also being fed the new seed-free ultra-compost. It has sent out six tendrils (one is not visible in this picture) three of which are being rooted in another pot, which is out of frame below.

Looks like a good year for big, fat strawberries!

Meanwhile, deep in the shadowy recesses of the deep nature garden downstairs, the smaller wild strawberries have been blooming and fruiting for several weeks already. Those wild berries are small, but wow, what flavor they have.



Always, with commercial agriculture, it seems like we have to compromise between flavor and nutrients on one hand, and sheer production mass on the other. Which is better?

I like the results when commercial strains are carefully grown with lots of love, hand-pruned and hand-fed, to create huge berries that actually taste good, that can be left to ripen naturally until they are bright red and plump. Yum!

But those little wild type berries sure are tasty.

Did you miss the previous episode of this story? You can also jump back to the beginning.


front garden: piles of stones and bricks and a tree removal tag

Now our story tracks to October 11, 2012, when little yellow house has just received a major cleanup, front and back. In the above view from the front of the driveway, the foreground shows a stack of bricks removed from the ground directly beyond the stack, plus some of those nasty rebar spikes removed from bender boards all around the garden.

At the right side of the picture, the trunk of the silk tree bears a yellow note — yes, that is the notice required in California that this “heritage tree” (any one larger than a certain trunk diameter) is allowed to be removed. Soon, this tree will be no more.

On the walkway to the front door there is a large pile of flat slate shingles removed from the fake stream behind the daisy bushes. Let’s take a closer look…


daisy bush corner: fake stream is gone!

From here we can see how big that pile of slate shingles has become. All of those stones were removed from the back wall of the fake stream that used to run behind the daisy bushes, just in front of the wall of deep green wisteria leaves. That whole space has been cleared, leveled and filled with a deep layer of leaves harvested from other parts of this garden, as well as street curbs in the neighborhood.

Doesn’t the daisy bush corner look pretty now?


lantana streetside strip: another careful prune, space for slate stones in front

The lantana street strip is gradually being prepared for its long-term future, which will involve a lot less lantana and some new citizens like Califonia native bunch grasses. For now, before the lantanas are whacked back by the winter frosts, we are keeping them pruned and pretty. Along the street side of this strip, grasses and other plants have been removed so that irregular slate stones can be added to form an additional walkway for people getting out of cars. Guess where those stones will come from!

Let’s have a look in back…


back yard: a blank slate

Wow! No more old patio area, no more potato vine stump. No more much of anything!

The entire back area is being redesigned. There will be a patio again, but it will not be rectangular. A winding walkway of irregular stones will lead out across this space to an artistically arranged sitting place. Raised earth berms will further define the space in this back garden.


Looking to the right, some wooden trellises have been added to the fence. These will host vines, climbing up behind some raised beds where happy vegetables will grow. In the foreground, in front of the raised beds, a rain garden is planned, which will be dug down several inches to collect a nice temporary puddle whenever very much water falls out of the sky.

Against the fence, the tomato vines are still producing delicious fruit, even as the temperatures drop.

Next: goodbye to an honorable old tree and its annoying debris

This cute little critter posed for a few short seconds at the tip of a Salvia leaf. It’s one of the most hated crop pests in the US, where it causes huge damage to a wide variety of crops. It’s a tarnished plant bug, Lygus lineolaris.

Although it is thought of as a serious pest (so much so that it’s hard to find web pages that don’t go to great lengths describing its damage) I have only seen a few of them in this garden. Unlike farmers with crops to lose, I welcome them. If they reproduce too fast, I am quite certain somebody will come along to eat them. They seem to be native to North America.

Like all true bugs, these have “half-wings” with tough, leathery parts in front that cover the filmy flying wings folded underneath. They also have sucking mouthparts, in this case to drink the sap of plants.

Why are they such agro pests? Not only do they attack hundreds of valuable crops, they also produce several generations every year. A successful strategy for sure, but one that leads the humans to go to great lengths to try to eliminate them. Sadly, that usually means spreading huge amounts of deadly chemicals into the environment. No wonder the butterflies and bees are disappearing.