The garden does not wait for the gardener, but goes about growing, reproducing, aging and eventually dying whether or not the gardener meets the schedule of seasonal tasks.
My garden has proceeded this year on its natural cycle. As the weather has warmed, even the plants for which I should have cut back last year’s growth are producing abundant new growth
Salvias exemplify this failing. Best practice with salvias is to cut them to the ground in the late winter or very early spring, when new growth first appears. This practice rejuvenates the plant, and gives it a youthful look. When the pruning is done too late, it is very difficult to avoid cutting off the new growth and setting back the seasonal growth.
I cut back a few of the salvias in my garden, but left many more with their tired branches from last year.
Fortunately, perennial plants really do not depend on punctual gardeners. Salvias perform better when treated well, of course, but they will survive nicely even when neglected.
I was able to prune my roses at the right time. It is possible to let rose shrubs grow without annual pruning during the dormant season, but they will have a more compact form and produce more blossoms when cut back about one-third each year.
Fruit trees are another matter. Happily, I pruned my apple trees in a timely way: I cut back last year’s growth just before blossoms appeared on the trees. There are just four dwarf apple trees in my garden, but skipping this annual task would allow sprawling growth and reduce the yield.
I did not, however, spray my trees as recommended to discourage codling moths. I did read about the life cycle of those pests, and made life a little harder for the over-wintering larvae by raking the mulch away from the base of the trees.
Weeds also are responding well to our limited rain and the warming weather. They are growing very nicely! I haven’t identified all the several weeds that make my garden their home, but I can always spot the bright yellow flowers of sourgrass, which expands its territory in my garden each year.
Wikipedia (always helpful) has this comment about sourgrass: “Indigenous to South Africa, Oxalis pes-caprae, the ‘Bermuda buttercup,’ is an invasive species and noxious weed in many other parts of the world, including the United States (particularly coastal California)…”
Ideally, gardeners should pull this weed when it first appears, before it produces countless tiny bulbs. Sadly, I am behind schedule again this year.
This experience yields clear lessons for gardeners:
- Strive to keep pace with Nature’s rhythm
- Appreciate the ability of plants to thrive despite neglect, and
- Take satisfaction in the seasonal tasks you do complete.
Enjoy your garden!
Several books on year-round gardening are available through your public library, your bookstore or online. For example, a search of the Amazon.co website for “gardening year-round” yields 45 pages of books to consider. Many of the books listed focus on edible gardening; several also include ornamental gardening.
Before investing your time or money in a gardening book, make sure that it has information for your gardening environment. The most useful gardening information for gardeners in the Monterey Bay area will be specific to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9. Information in books oriented to “northern California” or “Pacific Northwest” will need interpretation for gardeners in Zone 9. Books intended for other parts of the United States or the world could still be helpful, but should be treated like exotic materials.
Still, given that awareness, some classic books on year-round gardening written by English authors can be very much worth reading. Examples, include books by Vita Sackville-West, Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd.
Whether written by American or English gardening experts, the date of publication is not important: Nature’s seasonal patterns have not changed significantly.
Here are suggestions:
The Four-Season Landscape: Easy-Care Plants and Plans for Year-Round Color (A Rodale Garden Book) (1994), by Susan A. Roth (Author)
Golden Gate Gardening, 3rd Edition: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area & Coastal California (2010), by Pamela Peirce (Author)
Gardener to Gardener: Almanac & Pest-Control Primer (2000), by Vicki Mattern and Fern Marshal Bradley (Eds)
A Yardscapes Year: Ideas and Plants for Bay Area Gardeners (1999), by Mia Amato
The Western Gardener’s Journal: A Three-Year Almanac (1998), by Margaret Moulton