April Garden — California Poppies, Veggie Seedlings, Critter Habitat & Prep for Drought & Wildfire

California Poppies and old shed

Oh my goodness… I’ve been so very busy in the garden lately! Hard to keep up! This is mostly a photo story of the April garden. Happy #EarthDay everyone!

White foxgloves
White foxgloves growing in containers on the shady side of the house. Bumblebees visit them. Wouldn’t that be neat to crawl inside a flower?!

Other than the cold spring winds we often get this time of year, the weather has been sunny and pleasant. I hesitate to say that because I know some of you in various parts of the world had a surprise snow or two on top of your beautiful gardens. I hope your plants are recovering well!

Our challenge here remains the lack of rainfall this year. We’re looking at voluntarily water restrictions, probably to be followed by mandatory ones before long. I’ve been saving all my handwashing water and whatever other household greywater I can in buckets and using it on potted plants, and in general trying to reduce water usage. There is a chance of a little rain in the forecast and I’m dearly hoping that will come through. We have some rainwater collection barrels that are in a bit of disarray, and I plan to get those properly situated before the possible third of an inch.

Meanwhile, we continue to work on wildfire safety in prep for autumn and managed to get a whole new portion of the garden (that is within the wildfire defense zone) converted to decomposed granite. I’m really happy with it, but not sure my back is!

New granite section -- creating non-flammable breaks around buildings for wildfire safety.
New granite section — creating non-flammable breaks around buildings for wildfire safety. Normally you wet it while tamping it down, but due to drought, I’m just going to leave it as is until we get rain again.

This area needed some attention anyway. When we first acquired the property 20 years ago, it was nearly bare. Our first focus had been to create some privacy and interest around the house and granny unit, which are close together. Over time, our focus rippled outward. In recent years, this initial planting area had become quite overgrown and haphazard. So it was time for some refresh anyway.

For the following photos, you may want to view this blog from the website for best viewing.

Swallow nesting in old oak tree
The swallows return every year to nest in their summer house in the old oak tree

This morning was particularly beautiful, I have to say. There was calm bright sun, the newly arrived swallows in active discussions, the pipevine swallowtail butterflies still out in numbers, ladybugs sunning themselves, and the koi fish very hungry and ready to put on weight for the year.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies mating
Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies in, I presume, some kind of flight mating dance
Feeding time for koi and goldfish
Feeding time for koi and goldfish! The fish are not only a great joy to have — a wonderful meditation spot or when you need a moment to de-stress — they also help the garden by providing fertilized water that we use on plants. The large pond they live in was an old cistern, no longer in use, that we converted to fish pond many years ago. There is a fountain that recirculates and oxygenates the water, as does the wind over the surface. The goal is to have about half the surface open and the other half covered with water plants, to balance the algae levels. But ours isn’t ideal and I’m still learning. (If you are interested in installing a new pond, look up “natural ponds”. They have shallows with small rocks and edge plants and other things for ecological filtering). I periodically pond-vac the bottom a bit to reduce sludge build-up. I also add a bit of bentonite clay now and then. I try to monitor water quality with an easy testing kit that you dip in the water and get instant results from. We have some serious protection around the pond–some large metal trellises along with some pond netting — to protect from herons, raccoons, and just about every large critter.
Bumblebee on California poppy

The baby plants in the greenhouse are doing well so far and I talk to them with love and encouragement. Normally, I don’t grow a lot of seedlings anymore because we have a great nursery in the area and I know exactly how many summer veggies I need and often just buy them in six-packs when we’re clear of last frost. But with plants being in high demand during the pandemic gardening boom, I needed to be sure I’d have some veggies available for summer planting. A gardening friend just gave me a couple of tomato varieties that I couldn’t source. Thank you! I was happy to offer her with a couple of pipevine plants which I think will thrive at her place.

Seedlings in greenhouse awaiting last frost date
Seedlings in greenhouse awaiting last frost date: tomatoes, basil, winter squash, peppers, scabiosas, spinach, sunflowers, and other things I’m probably forgetting. Some okra seedlings are still in the house for extra protection against cold nights.

We’ve harvested a few artichokes and onions, and the only two shiitake mushrooms that fruited this week, but the garden is generally in transition. My peas got off to a slow start and they are still small. The asparagus is keeping us in greens at the moment. There is no fruit (other than lemons) this time of year — the last of the frozen blueberries from last year now finished off.

The potatoes are doing surprisingly well in their grow bags. We just added more soil around their stems. I’m surprised the cold nights haven’t set them back.

After this is posted, I’ll be back outside helping to weed some invasive thistles that we keep an eye out for and also watering a lilac with a bucket of greywater from the house. 🙂

Happy gardening everyone! Always love hearing from you in the comments!

California poppies and lupines
California poppies and lupines — the grasses seem to be going to seed early this year, no doubt from low rainfall.

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6 thoughts on “April Garden — California Poppies, Veggie Seedlings, Critter Habitat & Prep for Drought & Wildfire

  1. The garden looks beautiful and your photographs are superb. I can see all the work you have been doing in the greenhouse and doing the outside work too, must have been non-stop. I love the photograph of your bumble bee because they are so different from ours. Amelia

  2. Sorry I missed this lovely post, your photos and garden are fabulous, those California poppies in particular are magnificent with the grasses, and what a great contrast with the blue of the lupines. I love your greenhouse too, it looks like the perfect place to sit and watch the seedlings grow. When is your last frost date in California?

    1. Hi Sel! We sometimes get a surprise frost on the full moon of May, but that full moon is late in May this year and I’m hoping we won’t. April days are usually warm but nights are cool and soil not fully warmed yet. Nonetheless, I’m going to risk putting out the tender summer veg this week and hope we don’t get a late frost. Thanks for sweet comments! We love the poppies and lupines too; though they are native, we encourage them by scattering seeds most winters. Starting next year, I’m hoping to add more wildflowers to the mix, and start a bigger butterfly habitat section. I love reading your blog! Warmly, lisa

    2. Likewise Lisa, love what you are doing in your garden and all your efforts to encourage wildlife! I also took a bit of a risk and put some on my tomatoes out already…fingers crossed we get away with it 😆

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