Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spring Gardening in the Rain

The Manzanita have never been so spectacular in
bloom as in this drought year. This is
‘Howard McMinn’(Arctostaphylos densiflora)
happily flowering along our driveway
providing nectar for the Anna's Hummingbirds.
Glorious rain! During the month of February MuRefuge and Northern California in general have been blessed with rain. The native plantings are all yelling "hurrah," flowering and leafing out. Their ability to sustain dormancy in the wake of drought is part of the natural ebb and flow for these plants "rooted" here long before we humans arrived. As climate change presents unpredictability in so many ways, the native vegetation seemingly adapts. Unlike in years past I did not put any new plants in the ground this Fall past; rather I waited until midWInter on the calendar. All the native bunch grasses I planted then in the duck yard to replace the invasive European grasses that are pulled out as they appear are just so happy with the rain!

Also, as some of you know, a major out door project happened midWInter. With overplanting done some twenty years ago along our gravel road's easement, the plants eased beyond their allotted space onto the road. Hired hands, so to speak, brought a mini Cat and dug out all the plants including a couple of trees. I grieved, watching the gorgeous bushes and trees ripped from their home. The foliage was chipped and has been used to mulch along the easement to control reemergence of fox tails. Many, many wheelbarrows of Coast Live Oak leaves were raked and used as mulch there as well. 

The remaining Coast Live Oak along the West fence in the North corner received a pruning of about a third of its canopy. To my amazement when I viewed the tree later on in the day the tree top was filled with Bush Tits. Perhaps they were dining on Propertius (essentially all brown with tan spots on hind wings) or Mournful (white border on hind wings) Duskywings' hibernating caterpillars? The former flies April through July and the latter March through October, and both depend on oaks as caterpillar food. When I was originally planning native vegetation to be planted for butterflies, oaks were on the list. So I have been excited to observed clouds of small brown butterflies flying, these past few years, in and around the oaks growing here at MuRefuge. 

Inside the fence South of the easement four Coast Silktassel (Garrya elliptica) ‘Evie,’ a cultivar with many catkins of creamy white flowers with a maroon tinge which appear each winter, found a new home. These large evergreen shrubs, purchased at Mostly Natives in Tomales, grow 8 to 10 feet round. 

Two Coast Silktassel
'James Roof' cultivar with extra long tassels
were planted in the Fall, 1994, along the North end of our
East fence and have grown to their 20' tall predicted height.
Two Bearberry, one each of ‘Point Reyes’ (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and ‘Radiant’ (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), were also planted inside the easement fence between the Buckeye tree and two apricot trees. More Todd planters of Idaho fescue starts, a native bunch grass, were planted under and around the 'Evie' and Coast Live Oak .

A Winter freeze a number of years ago killed the very slow growing Snowdrop bush ((Styrax redivivs) shown below sporting a beautiful array of blossoms.

From California Flora Nursery in Fulton another Snowdrop bush was recently purchased and planted in Sun's Spot. Patience while the bush slowly grows is well worth the wait since the blossoms are just so spectacular and cheery!

Before this most recent set of rain storms I fed all the trees on the West side of the property. The oyster shell and Azomite will provide health giving food to the oaks and fruit trees.

This Year of the Green Wood Horse with its adolescent like qi is an excellent time for learning and/or taking classes. To take advantage of this qi I am converting my planting routine to the biodynamic way. First, I purchased a different calendar (a biodynamic planting calendar working with cosmic rhythms) called Stella Natura: Inspiration and Practical Advice for Gardeners and Profession Growers. I purchased my copy from Turtle Tree Seed but it is available locally at Harmony Farm Supply. Second, I am taking several classes on biodynamic gardening at the Rudolph Steiner College in Fair Oaks.

And for those of you who consider your gardening top notch as do I, check out the Walter Family garden. Reading about the Walter Family's garden brought memories of my stepfather Steve's garden which covered several acres which he packed with vegetables. When they were ready to be picked he did so, carting them back to town in bushel baskets for my mom to can, freeze and store for Winter culinary enjoyment. He used to say, "why go out to eat when the best place to eat is right here on Pioneer Avenue (in Shenandoah, Iowa)?"

Starts are ready to be planted in the raised beds the first week in March using the new biodynamic planting guide. And more seeds will be scattered on soil in containers in the greenhouse as well.
"This is the first lettuce we put in the field in the spring,
as much as three weeks before the others. Hardy and
delicious," says the Turtle Tree Seed catalog about
Cracoviensis lettuce.
Cascadia peas started from MuRefuge saved seeds.
"First dwarf snap pea with Sugar Snap quality, and them some.
Extra plump, very crisp, very sweet and flavorful pods. . .
Heat resistant, went to the end of June for us" says
Bountiful Gardens catalog.
 Bloomsdale Spinach, my very favorite spinach.
Over the years I have tried numerous varieties but
now it's grown exclusively here at MuRefuge.

Wishing those of you still under Winter conditions a greeting to stay warm and remember Spring is on the way. For those in the West where we are enjoying a rainy pattern, stay dry and remember gratitude for the moisture. May you all


  1. cathie..yr posts and yr efforts are so treasured..thanx 2 you for who you are !

  2. If I was a duck those pea sprouts would look mighty tasty! Quack, Quack!

  3. Here's a comment I received via email: Your last posting on the trees being ripped out along your road is one of the first times I have seen someone else sharing the feeling I have when I see either a tree being neglected from lack of watering, or when it is healthy and yet being chopped down and cut up because someone no longer wants it. It grabs me in the heart in a sad and mournful way. I must have been a tree in another life. Shannon