Why I'm Planting Ceanothus Now

Why I'm Planting Ceanothus Now

This year, I'm desperate to plant Ceanothus now. There are hundreds of reasons to plant this sturdy, tidy, beautiful, fragrant native, but this year three of those reasons are pushing me into urgent nursery buying excursions. If not now, then soon, landscape watering is going to be very limited. So working slowly, section by section, I have been replacing plants in my gardens that need summer water with new choices that will be drought tolerant once established, like Ceanothus. I invite you to do the same.

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Wednesday at a Time

Wednesday at a Time

“One day at a time” is a slogan used by many ambitious people, such as athletes, business entrepreneurs, and politicians. It conveys the wisdom of breaking up a difficult or prolonged task into manageable parts. At Garden for the Environment this phrase takes on a special meaning. On Wednesday every week, a dedicated group of volunteers and interns show up by ten in the morning and for the next four hours, we break into crews to weed, prune, compost, and fertilize.

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The April Gardener is June-Minded

The April Gardener is June-Minded

Spring is here, and the long-awaited rains are blessing the garden. By the south gate of Garden for the Environment, I can look with satisfaction at the bright bursts of color from harlequin flower and spring star flower blooming on one side of the pathway, while colorful grasses, rock roses, and irises light up the other side. But this is no time for a gardener to rest on her laurels. The flowers that are blooming today are the result of work done in fall and early winter. And today’s work must plan for the upcoming months.

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Garden / Guardian

Garden / Guardian

The word “garden,” like the word “yard,” comes from ancient linguistic roots meaning an enclosed space. The garden is a protected place, set apart from current dangers. Garden for the Environment, and the many other community gardening projects here in San Francisco, create space for people to belong to nature rather than just long for nature. And by guarding nature and our connection to her, perhaps we can open wider the garden of our hearts.

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Grow Your Own Food

Grow Your Own Food

This year more people than ever seem ready to start growing at least some of their own food in their gardens or on their decks and balconies. The weather is rarely cold enough to stop all plants from growing, so we can harvest food from our gardens all year round, even in December and January. On the other hand, it doesn't ever get warm enough for many crops which other regions can grow in the summer time, especially that hallmark of backyard gardening, the tomato.

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Solstice Musing on Stewardship

Solstice Musing on Stewardship

Gardens like GFE nourish people who are hungry. I'm not talking about dinner, but about our soul hungers; for the wild, for rich living dirt, for crazy beauty. Our culture restricts us more and more to two dimensions ("sent from my iPad"), but a garden can expand us back into ourselves, the smell of crushed thyme, the bright cries of a flock of bushtits in the butterfly bush, the rhythm of lifting and turning living soil.

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To Prune or Not to Prune, That Is the Question

To Prune or Not to Prune, That Is the Question

During the summer months, this had been a butterfly garden, full of dozens of different pollinators. Now, with late fall turning into winter, it was time to cut back and shape the garden for next year's pleasure. One of the Verbenas needed to be moved out from under the shade thrown by a huge Salvia karwinskii. There was never a better day for a sharp pair of pruners.

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Fall Weed Strategies

Fall Weed Strategies

The new growing season also means an abundance of seedlings in the garden soil. In well-tended old gardens, many or most of these seedlings will be desirable plants, cool season annuals emerging from last year’s seeds. But just as reliable are the weedy seeds. Good gardening calls for an organized strategy to combat the new weed season.

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Late Summer Gardens, Part II

Late Summer Gardens, Part II

Last month, this column covered some tips on design and care of the late summer garden. A month later and we are still in the same late summer weather pattern, with mostly foggy days on the western side of the city, dry soils, and cool temperatures. As each week of late summer passes, the summer-dry garden looks more and more disheveled and dreary, unless the gardener follows a few simple rules.

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Late Summer Gardens, Part I

Late Summer Gardens, Part I

For summer dry gardens, August begins to separate the fabulous gardens from the rest. It's relatively easy to make a garden gorgeous in the late winter, spring, and early summer. There are a multitude of plants to choose from, all of which thrive in the cool moist soils and sunny warm days between rains. But by August, our foggy season is well advanced, and plants have already suffered through weeks of cool moist air and warm dry soil.

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An Outdoor Education

An Outdoor Education

Late June and early July means Summer Sprouts is blooming in the garden. The Summer Sprouts are high school and middle school youth who come to learn outdoors for three weeks of garden-based programs, and they are blooming brightly. The youth are learning leadership skills, biking, building compost piles, and eating huge salads and kale dishes from our veggie beds. They are making new friends, and learning about plant care.

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Yikes!

Yikes!

For me, every year there’s a moment in May when the garden is suddenly just too much. All the irrigation has to be troubleshot and turned on after winter. All the weeds are as high as an elephant’s eye. All the winter crops suddenly bolt so all the vegetable beds have to be turned over and planted for summer. All the spring blooming ornamentals need deadheading, while the cool season annuals are already finished and need to be composted. Yikes!

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