Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I love seeds. Seeds tell me stories of cultures and families and soils. In a fold in fate that makes me grin, someone with whom I've had a few seed exchanges recognized my passion and passed my name on to another person, who through the death of a seed saving neighbor, was suddenly rich in historic bean seeds, and soon thereafter, I became rich in these seeds as well. Yesterday, a box of 33 varieties of beans—many quite rare, a few more familiar—arrived in my mailbox.

As soon as I heard these beans were coming my way, I recruited a team of local gardeners, some experienced, some new, and one even a former student, to help me maintain this collection by growing it out. We'll meet next Thursday at a local pub, where I'll distribute seeds, tools to perform small-scale mechanical isolation, and information on how to maintain varietal purity.


Tucomares Chocolate Runner

Herren Bohnli



Tennessee Wonder

If the internet didn't exist, it is very likely all this history wouldn't be sitting in my lap. Yet, the internet does exist, and through it, in 2014, I have a box with a shy estimate of 2,500 years of seasons—droughts, floods, freezes, bounties, and lean years—right here with me on my couch in my house on the edge of a canyon.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


The citrus is beginning to perfume the neighborhood, lots of South African bulbs are blooming, and the earliest roses are hinting at the show to come. It's a beautiful time of year.

An unknown bromeliad species that never looks like much until it blooms, then ooooooo-baby.
The March garden chores that happen in my neck of the woods:

1) Pot up tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings. By the end of this March, tomatoes can begin to go in the ground. 

The Albuca circinata is blooming.
2) Dig in the cover crops to prepare beds for summer planting. This year, I planted agricultural mustard as a cover crop in two beds to act as green manure and to help combat root knot nematodes. Yesterday, I turned over one of the beds so the mustard can decompose before I plant out the tomatoes.

3) Weed.

4) Start a second round of pole beans.

This year, I grafted four pieces of Hawaii apple to my Golden Russet. Every scion took. 
5) Find something to do with all the Meyer lemons. Make marmalade, Meyer lemon liqueur, preserved Meyer lemons, Meyer lemon aigre-doux. Dry them, make curd, make cookies, send them to friends in cold places.

6) Prune back winter damage and worn-out on perennials and blooming shrubs for a good mid-spring show.

6) Fertilize citrus, roses, perennials, garlic, onions, everything.

Four years ago, I planted scarlet flax from seed and I've never needed to plant purposefully again; now I just thin for where I want it.
7) Thin the self-seeded annuals for the best show later this month and through the spring.

8) Check the irrigation lines before it gets hot to make sure the gophers haven't cut through them and all the drips are functioning.

The apricots are struggling this year with so few chill hours. This branch of Goldkist has bloomed, but most of the rest of the tree and its sister, Blenheim, hasn't bloomed.
9) Curse the damn, mother-licking gophers for being assholes.

10) Thin the fruit on early-setting stone fruit.

11) Weed some more.

Royal Lee cherry has a nice set of fruit, the most yet.
Minnie Royal is loaded. I can't wait for cherries.
12) Turn over the compost pile and deliver completed compost to the awaiting beds.

This rose pre-existed my tenure in this garden, and it is a fragrant, silvery showstopper. Later this month, it will be loaded with buds.