Tag Archives: gardening

How is the garden growing? The patio garden

I have been so busy with my graduate studies, I have barely had time to garden, let alone blog about gardening. I’m not sure how you all do it!

I have been enjoying patio garden. I planted a bunch of strawberries. They haven’t produced a lot of large berries, but the plants are attractive and they seem to be doing well in the high shade under the doug firs. I also planted some herbs and greens. In general the herbs are doing well. The sage seems to not be getting enough light. I have lots of oregano, chives, parsley, cilantro, thyme, lemon balm, mint, and rosemary. My attempts to grow vegetables though has been largely thwarted. I have managed a little lettuce, but it hasn’t looked healthy. The chard has been looking good, but I can’t produce much, even with us two of us.

There are lots of blogs and articles online the discuss growing vegetables in small spaces, but  frankly I doubt whether it’s really possible to grow much on an apartment balcony or patio. I think a patio is a great place to grow some herbs to enrich your boring menu, but I don’t think you can harvest much in such as smal space. Also, even larger containers require a lot more work than the same amount of actual garden soil.  You have to water and fertilize a lot more and the soil costs a lot more. Has anyone else had luck growing one thing or another on a patio?

Tree Care at Aurora House

Below are some horrible pictures of tree torture, so sensitive readers may not want to read any further. I don’t know why people engage in tree torture, but I think it’s simple ignorance. Many people just don’t understand the basics of how trees grow and what kinds of care they need. People also don’t think about how the tree might grow and change in the future.

When this Bradford Pear was planted in the 70s (?) it had plenty of room. Now it’s almost outgrown it’s tiny square of soil, making it difficult to water. Since it’s planted next to our sloped driveway it’s basically only getting water from the soaker hose on the other side.

tree trunk

Frankly, it looks kind of sickly. Now maybe it’s just the fact that it’s an older Bradford Pear. Bradford Pears have some problems, such as weak branches that break easily in stormy weather. Our tree, in fact, has a broken branch hanging off of it right now. We need to figure out how to get it down without hurting ourselves or the tree or just hire an arborist.

Below is my roommate Kym, attempting doing surgery on the japanese maple in our back patio. For some reason a previous resident of Aurora house tied a piece of thick black plastic rope around the trunk of this little tree. If you look closely you can see that the tree trunk had started to grow around the rope.

Kym and the Japanese maple

I have seen trees grow to incorporate lots of foreign materials, but this situation is dangerous for the tree because if the tree trunk became completely girdled, the rope could cut the tree’s circulation systems, making it impossible for the tree to pass nutrients and water back and forth from its roots and branches. I’m hoping that by cutting off the rope we have saved this little tree, although we couldn’t fully remove the rope since the tree had already grown over most of it.

Japanese maple damage

I’m not sure if the damage to it’s canopy was caused by the rope. It might be sun burn or frost damage. Most of the tree is sheltered by the walls of the house. I’m going to try to get up there and cut out the damaged areas before I leave in the fall.

The Itinerant Gardener

For the moment, GardenGrrrl is an itinerant. This summer I’m living with some friends in a shared house. In September I will be moving to a new city to begin a new graduate school program. Lately it’s been one move after another with little time to establish a garden. In the meantime I have still be assisting friends in getting their gardens started. I will be posting more on various gardens that I have coached clients through.

For now, here’s a picture of some Lantana in the front yard of my summer home. Mostly the garden here is a mess, but despite the neglect the Lantana is doing beautifully. Gardening snobs might not be fans of Lantana because it is so ubiquitous in this part of the country, but it’s the kind of plant that can make anyone feel like a successful gardener. It’s a great groundcover or perennial for places you don’t want to spend that much time on. Lantana does well in summer or part shade and tolerates forgetful watering. In some parts of the country it can become invasive, but I have never seen it cause a problem here in California.

Since I’m only here for another six or eight weeks I have a limited amount of time to get the garden here straightened out. Luckily my roommates have both expressed an interested in learning more gardening, so expect to see more posts in the coming weeks as I attempt to get them started.

The No-Work Way to Grow Your Own Food

As the local food craze has gotten rolling, more companies are popping up to help people grow food in their own backyards. For many busy folks the idea of getting a vegetable garden started might seem overwhelming. Now you can pay someone else to farm your backyard for you. Your Backyard Farmer serves Portland, Milwaukie and Lake Oswego. Check out this cute video describing their services.

A similar company is now getting started in the San Francisco Bay Area. MyFarm provides vegetable gardens to residents in San Francisco and the East Bay. They were recently featured in the SF Chronicle.

While I think these companies are providing a great service for those who really aren’t interested in learning to garden for themselves, I think it’s too bad that more people can’t make the time to learn some gardening basics. I realize that there are lots of folks out there with more money than time, but growing your own food can be a great pleasure and isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be. It wasn’t that long ago that most families in this country were farm families and grew the majority of their food themselves. All it takes is slowing down and taking the time each day to observe your garden, noticing changes and taking action. I love to watch my garden grow. Taking the time to notice changes in your plants slows down your persective and tunes you in to the wider world, the weather, the cycles of the moon, and what insects are flying or crawling around your little plot of land. Having a garden is so much more than simply getting fresh organic produce, although some fresh, sweet strawberries might be the catalyst that gets your butt into gear.