October 2015


News Archive

Betty Nostrand, Editor
Molly Fisher, Publisher

President's Letter

Thanks for passing our budget - it was a big relief for those of us who spent what felt like the entire summer on it. Growth is painful but a lot of good comes out of it - We now have a large group of stakeholders who are visioning wonderful creative ideas for the club making money. Saturday, November 7th at Alden Lane we will have a workshop on just this sort of brainstorming. I plan to be there and I hope to see everyone who really cares about this club in attendance.

I took a couple of days this week to get my winter garden in: peas, lettuce, onions, garlic, beets, leeks and carrots. I feel an inordinate sense of accomplishment. Nothing like a beautiful and productive garden to cure any ailment. I hope you have been enjoying the cooler weather and being able to dig in the dirt. I'm looking forward to seeing you all in October - bring whatever you are harvesting to the meeting and we can share.

Tia Kay

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Misc. Items of Interest

...the membership voted at the September Regular meeting to adopt the proposed budget for 2015-2016.

...Diablo Foothills District meeting on Thurs., Oct. 15, at Walnut Creek Elks club. Featured speaker is Susan Coolidge "Fall into Winter" showing floral designs for the holidays. Lunch is $27. Call 925-672-4620 or email jlbates5900@sbcglobal.net for more information and menu choices.

...Art of Pruning Garden Tour, Saturday, Oct. 17 from 10-4, six gardens by Bill Castellon. $30 in advance, $40 day of tour. Tickets at APA Garden Tour Tickets. Email APA for more information.

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October Occurences.................in the garden

...every year about now, drought or not, we start hoping for a really soaking rain so we can plant our bulbs more easily in the ground. Did you order bulbs this year? Hard to know what to do. But bulbs, tulips especially, do fine in pots and can be watered with kitchen/shower savings if we don't get the El Nino yet as promised. Bulbs will be coming into the nurseries and try to pick yours out early so you get a better choice and can be assured that they are in the right bin. I've found that the early spring blooming tulips do the best for me because our weather gets too warm in late or mid spring and they bloom and crash really fast in the heat. Cool weather springtimes in the eastern and northern states are conducive to longer lasting and happier tulips. Daffodils will come back in future years but most tulips, other than native ones, are pretty much one year wonders. Foliage seems to come back but you don't grow them for the foliage! I have had good luck with hyacinth coming back. Plant those near a door or walkway so you can easily enjoy their fragrance. Hyacinths can also be grown indoors in special containers that hold the bulb above the water. Fun for kids of all ages to watch the roots grow as well as the flower and foliage.

...I have been gone for 4 months so it is interesting to see what plants have survived this summer with once a week watering. I jumped on the succulent band wagon a few years ago because I like their looks and they don't mind being left for months at a time. Some have shriveled a bit but a good dose of water and they're looking perky again. Last April I bit the bullet and cut off most of the long stemmed ones and stuck the top in a pot where the bottom of the cutoff stem did not touch the bottom of the pot...and it worked! They grew roots and seem just fine - will they like it as well when I plant them in soil? See notes from Elizabeth Judge, truly a succulent expert, about the best potting soil for succulents. I think the secret to rooting the succulent tops you cut off is patience. These babies have taken 4 months to grow decent roots. How did bottom stem portions do? Not so well, I didn't move them into the shade and apparently I should have.

...what else has survived quite well? Well, most of my plants have been in the soil for a long time and I'm not ever over generous with water so they have a deep root system but the rose of sharon is fine, maybe didn't have as many blooms; the geraniums (pelargoniums and true geraniums) seem to be surviving but also appreciated a bit more water when I returned. I never have many blooms on them in the hot part of the year so they look normal; my dwarf oleander is blooming its head off and seems happier with sparse water; and of course the ivy has grown and boomed as if it was heavily watered. One good thing I noticed is that there are fewer snails - they don't seem to like the drought - and the ones I do find are way back in their shells. My teucrium hedge is also very happy and needed heavy pruning to be back in its trim shape. As did a dwarf pomegranate hedge I have. My catmint was also booming. The erigeron, fleabane., Santa Barbara daisy - whatever you want to call it - is all over the place and oblivious to water or no - I love it as a filler but many people consider it a real weed. My sage, oregano, and lemon verbena seem fine - many herbs prefer a very dry climate. The iris seem happy and from the bloom stalks I can tell that they were lovely this summer.

...our trees (and we have a lot) were watered last spring heavily with recycled water and have gotten a good dose of same since we returned. Using recycled water is a concept that has really become popular - at least at the Pleasanton station. Last spring our two 90 gallon tanks that fit in the back of our SUV were almost unusual and people were bringing in gallon jugs to fill. Now people have 300 gallon tanks (residential limit for Pleasanton) and there is usually a big lineup.

...I have a Japanese maple in one of the plastic pots with a water well in the bottom and it seems to be just fine.

...when the weather cools down, as it should soon, it is a great time to divide perennials that have gotten too big a clump. Or maybe has a blank spot in the middle of the clump. Spread them around your garden (repetition is always a key part of design) or pot them up for our plant sale. They should be pretty easy to water in a group of pots and often divisions are big enough to put in a gallon pot straight off. If you are planting them in the ground, try to have the new space already prepared with compost and nutrition ahead of time so the roots don't dry out. If you are planting them back where they have been be sure to add some nutrition and compost to that soil too as it may well be quite depleted if the same plant has been there awhile.

...traditionally this is the planting time of the year - our second spring- especially for shrubs and trees, but with the drought it is a quandary. Will we get rain this winter and next spring? And how much if we do. Will water restrictions be even tighter so that you don't want to be watering new plants - and new plants of all kinds require adequate water to build their root systems? Trees and shrubs should now have a big well around them so that any water stays around roots and doesn't run off. Only remove the wells when we get good soaking rains.

...one alternative is to invest in garden art or decorative rocks or other non-vegetates. You can fill that blank space - at least temporarily - with a bird bath, statue, or interesting large rock. Tall, empty pots can be turned upside down and a bowl placed on them for annual plants that can be rotated for seasonal color and watered with kitchen/bath extra water. Or filled with succulents that with the cooler weather will require almost no water at all.

...I don't do much edible gardening because I am gone for long periods of time but this is the time to get at your winter garden. The Edible Gardening Group meeting on Oct. 24 will offer all sorts of tips and ideas on how and what to plant for the winter. Plus you'll get to see Jim O'Laughlin's garden and see in person how it should be done.

...there are many plant sales put on by various horticultural organizations and botanical gardens this time of year and it is a chance to purchase that unusual plant for the garden. Just be sure to tell a clerk exactly where you live because the micro-climates in the Bay Area are many and varied and what will be a low water plant in areas near the bay are not up to withstanding our hotter summers and cooler winters. It's often good to take a crate to carry plants in and also to bring along a Sunset Western Garden book to look up information about a plant. But if it is a really interesting or recently developed plant it may not be in there.

...later in this month or next most nurseries will be having sales to clear out their stock so they don't have to care for them over the winter. Perennial plants that look a bit tired will revive next spring. Keep them in the pot for easier watering and care over the winter and then plant them in the ground early next spring so they will develop a good root system before summer. Of course if El Nino really does arrive you can plant them out now and nature will water them for you.

...fun, colorful plants that like cool weather and should bloom through the winter: pansies, violas, primroses, calendula, Iceland poppy, snapdragons, sweet peas (easy from seed).

...as the length of day shortens and the weather cools, be sure to adjust what watering you do accordingly.

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