Winter Wonders

OK, it's official...our governor has declared a drought emergency. We've known we've been in a drought for over a year and with not a drop this January, I guess Mr. Brown could not deny it any longer. 

What this means is that we're heartily encouraged to cut our water use by 20%. This will soon become mandatory should this very dry winter continue. The water company will tell us how much we can use and any amounts over that will be charged at double or triple the rate...something like that.

It's good that I put in the drought-tolerant lawn this fall. Now, we'll see just how tolerant it is. 

In the meantime, this hot, dry weather has fooled some of the roses into blooming again. Look at the front garden, up at the top, and this Mr. Lincoln.

'Magic Moment' is spectacular right now.

Enjoy it, flowers, because pruning time is coming very soon.

Oh, almost forgot...we got our first orchid bloom of the year this weekend with this cymbidium.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
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January's Jewels

Just a quick hit to show you this week's harvest...

Still a lot left on the plants but this week we've got a couple of Cara Cara oranges that are just perfectly sweet and juicy, a couple of Meyer Lemons, tomatoes, guavas, and a bell pepper plus a pepperette.

The bell peppers are done with this week's picking but the hot chile peppers just keep going and going and going...

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Winter's Burdens

One thing those of you who live on those frigid tundras up to the north or back can skip a lot of gardening chores during the winter. 

Here in Southern California, gardening season may take a short break but it never really stops.

The roses in the front yard have decided they'll have one more hurrah before pruning time starts.  Since they look so happy, I'll start at the other end...the far side of the backyard...and work my way towards these, letting them be last on the pruning schedule.

I thought I'd taken a before picture of this Angel Face and Moonstone before pruning, but I guess I was mistaken.  You can see more about how I prune in this pruning post from last year.

The plumerias, tender as they are, are shedding their leaves as the cooler evenings set in.  I'll sweep these up.

This one, in front of Mr. Lincoln, has gone completely bald for the winter.

Finally, I'm waiting for the grapevine to shed it's leaves completely, as it will when the temps drop into the 20's later this month, so I can give it a trim. The wife and I are currently debating exactly where those cuts will go.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
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Musings on a Perfect Citrus

I love citrus, especially those of the orange variety. There's almost no dessert that can compare with a perfectly ripe orange, picked from the tree, and eaten on the spot. No soda can compare with the lemonade you make with the fruit you just harvested from the tree. A cocktail just isn't a cocktail to me without a squeeze of fresh lime in it.

Our house resides in a former lemon grove. All traces of that farm are long gone, although some of our neighbors still harvest and sell their oranges.

While I don't get the quantity of fruit I'd like, the quality is sure there. 

We have three trees...a navel orange, a tangelo that I rescued from a trash pile, and a Meyer lemon. All three are dwarf trees.  

I definitely have my idea of what a perfect fruit from each tree will be...

On the orange, it has to be round. Like a globe, not oblong like an egg. The navel has to be small...almost non-existent (this gives you a bonus of a large, interior navel made exclusively of tasty, juicy pulp). The skin should be rather thick to make peeling easy, I like to peel and eat the sections more than I like to cut it up into pieces with a knife. The color should be a dark orange, signifying that it has absorbed all the UV the sun could pour on in and converted that into life-giving ascorbic acid.

The orange at the top of this post looks like it meets most of these qualifications, I think I'll pick it today.

A tangelo should also be dark orange for the same reasons. They're easy to peel naturally, so the skin doesn't have to be as thick but it helps to have a large head of rind on the top. Now, you pop that off like the pin of a hand grenade and strip of from top to bottom. 

This last fruit from this year's crop meets that criteria. It's coming off today too.

The Meyer lemon needs only to be a deep yellow. It's naturally sweeter than most lemons. I don't have a use for it this week, so I'll leave them on the tree a couple of more days before we take them off and make lemonade or maybe lemon cake.


Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
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The Grass is Not Greener...and That's a Good Thing

If you've been following the saga of our lawn, you know that last summer it was scorched earth. My neighbor has professional gardeners who care very well for her lawn and it is the envy of the neighborhood.

In the winter months, however, the St. Augustine goes a bit dormant. That's her lawn at the top of the post.

After all my work, my lawn has finally filled in and it actually greener that hers.  For once, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence...that's the lawn before on the left and what it looks like now on the right. Keep in mind, these pictures were taken on New Year's Day in the middle of winter and, yes, our plants are affected by the cooler temperatures even here in California.

I'm very happy and satisfied with the seed I've sewn and how lush it has filled in (below is an Amazon link if you'd like to give it a try). It's supposed to be drought and heat tolerant so I'll be very interested in how it looks in 9 months after 3 months of extreme heat.

It's a mix of tall fescue, rye, and bluegrass that is supposed to be bred to send roots up to 4" deep. We'll see but, for now, it looks fantastic and I'm thinking of doing another overseeding once the cooler weather subsides.

Since I'm the Cheapskate, the price was right too. $20 for the grass seed and a lot of free sweat equity in aerating the lawn to prepare for it.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
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A New Year...New Chores

Spending a little time on New Year's day doing a little gardening in the 70 degree, California sun.

The grapevine is starting to shed its leaves and has dropped enough to work on getting the critter net off of it.

First, some pruning shears to cut off the branches that have grown through the netting.

Next, some scissors to cut the net in half. Then, it's just some muscle power to pull the two halves off.

Outside of the laundry room, some of our hanging baskets are getting pretty long.  It's just a simple matter to park the green waste bin underneath it...

...and just slice it off at the right length. The cut part falls right into the bin and is ready to be hauled away.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

DINNER TIME! Dutch Oven Beef Stew

It can still get a little chilly at night here in Northern California. A hearty stew is just the thing to take the chill off. This reci...