Pretend for a moment that we are gardening neighbors chatting over our common fence and let me invite you on a little virtual saunter through our February-March garden here in Sonoma County, California.
The field is finally green again and fun to walk through. Your shoes may get a little damp with dew. As we round a curved path through the olive grove, we have the happy shock of brilliant daffodils beaming at us– suspended in a petal explosion of light and cheer. “Ice Follies” are one of my favorite varieties with white and pale yellow petals. We also have some “King Alfred” which stand tall in the field, trumpeting a bold yellow. Which varieties do you like?
Most of these were ordered years ago from White Flower Farm and, at that time, came in strong wood crates that are desirable for repurposing. These crates look great painted, and make multi-functional rustic containers, like for shelving or storage or dried lavender bunches. Happily, gophers don’t eat daffodils, so they are one of the few bulbs I can plant direct in the ground. However, the gophers will sometimes push them to the surface or bury them further down. If you are in gopher territory, check your planting area every day for a few days after planting, to rebury any unearthed bulbs.
While we are atop the little hill, let’s stop for the other bright spot here: two venerable old plums newly burst open like popcorn into delicate, scented white petals. As we chat each others ears off about gardening and whatnot, we can catch a tiny view of the distant Mayacamas Mountains to the east. One good thing to come out of the pandemic is that the air clarity is so much better now and I can see details of these distant hills that I’ve never seen before. A deep breath makes me grateful for the fresh air after the fall wildfire smoke.
Other highlights of the early spring garden are the red-flowering quince, which has already been in full bloom for a couple of weeks and is such a welcome patch of scarlet red and a source for garden bouquets.
The fruiting quince is a tad later to bloom and is just now fully opened. I adore its subtle soft shades of white and shell pink even more than the ornamental quince flowers. Ours is tucked away in a niche and every time I walk through there I catch my breath and feel like I’ve stumbled onto a wedding.
Most of the fruit trees are still dormant — not much to see there — but the nectarines are just now awakening into pink blossoms, and the same goes for the pink and white flowering currant bushes (Ribes sanguineum) which exude from their leaves one of my favorite scents of all time.
The lemons produced heavily this year and we didn’t thin, so the bushes are still hanging heavy with smallish fruits.
Growing now in the vegetable beds are overwintering garlic, onions, leeks, kale, beets, and more broccoli than we’ve been able to eat. I harvested my first handful of asparagus for dinner yesterday, and snipped a few small shiitake mushrooms to go with it. Naturally we’re also passing by lots of weeds and neglected spots on our garden tour, but we’ll not dwell on those for now. 😉 I could come up with an excuse, but the fact is, it often looks like this.
But we did get the first bed of snow peas planted yesterday, and the potatoes were planted out last week. (We’re trying grow bags this year. Last year we did half of the spuds in the ground — protected with gopher wire — and half in nursery containers. I think we got more quantity from the containers.)
We just finished the second dormant oil application on the cherry trees, and have begun the mowing season which normally lasts until the grasses turn brown and crackly in mid-summer. This time of year the grass seems to grow inches per day. We don’t have a lawn, just field grass, and we have to keep it mown to protect from the fire danger later in the year. We keep a patch of untrimmed wildness in the herb garden for the overwintering butterflies and ladybugs.
We depend on winter rains, and we’re behind normal so far. I hope we’ll somehow escape another drought year. The big seasonal pond is dry. I miss the resounding chorus of frogs we normally have (see the Frog Opera Farm post). The frogs were excited during the first rains, but at this point, there are only a handful of croaks at the various stock tanks we have as drought-backup for them.
The koi pond is a fun place to stop during the garden walk. They are beginning to get their appetites back as the fish pond thermometer starts climbing back upwards again. There were a few koi babies last year and it’s amazing how they managed to get bigger over the winter!
After that walk, we’d probably hang out a bit now in the sunbubble and get warm from the chilly wind and just relax and talk, or perhaps not talk and just BE. 🙂 The other gardener here and chief chai maker might grace us with a cup. Yum.
Well I hope you liked this amble through the garden, and if you were here in person, you would leave with a hug and a homemade produce bag of lemons, broccoli and some quince blossoms for your table. See you next time! Stay safe!
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P.S. To fellow-blogger Amelia @afrenchgarden if you know the type of bumblebee in the rosemary photo, I’d love to start learning! To all: check out her blog! Very pretty plum blossom photos, beekeeping, composting and more!