Sunday, June 1, 2014

What they don't tell you in gardening books...

Ah, gardening of lush lawns, colorful, slug-free flowers and well-designed patio spaces, nary a weed, gopher or algae-infested pond in sight.  It's easy to be seduced, to rush out and buy flower starts, shrubbery, trees, topsoil and fertilizer.  You will be dedicated and devoted.  You will water, fertilize and weed.  Until the next morning until you look out your window and realized there is no longer anything to water or weed.  Overnight, gophers have devoured your fledgling shrubbery from the roots up, and a few sad leaves poking out the spot where the plant once was is all you have to remind you of the happy baby you brought home from the nursery.

The newly planted grasses, succulents and Mexican sage bushes were all eathen by gophers.  The lavender, celery and dahlias have survived to this day.

Gardening is really more like detective work than paint-by-numbers instructional guides would have it.  You have to first get a lay of the land, try a couple of plants first and see what happens before planting a whole bed.  It's important to first reconnoitre your neighbors' yards and interview them about what has worked for them.  What trees, shrubs and flowers are thriving and what are not.  Which hardy flowers, such as California poppies, are poking up through the cracks in the sidewalk?  These plants are your friends.

What are the natural predators in your area?  Again, grilling your neighbors will help.  Also, if you live adjacent to open space (as I do) or woodlands take note of gopher holes or signs or other pests. 

Find out your soil type.  If you're new to the neighborhood and in a new house, read the report on soil type (which is often discussed in the earthquake hazard section of your disclosure paperwork).  Find out what grows well in your specific garden microclimate.  Consider also the amount of sun, drainage and wind patterns.  There are many wonderful publications on all these considerations and everything else that goes into planning a garden.  Just remember that this advice is frequently general and that you will have to read it through the filter of your specific situation

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