Saturday, June 22, 2013

Garden News

But first a comment that few people will appreciate.

Woman walks in coffee shop, slathered head to toe in hideous tattoos. Not much point in saying anything. Lovely skin, too bad she smeared ink all over it....... Land of a thousand dragons...... They always do dragons and butterflies..... Or else they try to be different, by inking a 1947 Packard or something odd, so then they will be the only guy/girl in Southern California with a 1947 Packard tattooed on their posterior....... Occasionally I see a tattoo that is mildly interesting, but most of them are gross and the despoiling of a beautiful body raised by loving parents. You put 18 years into raising a kid, and then they want to scribble on your masterpiece and rub your face in it...... It's a way of registering adult freedom, of course, but there are better ways to do that.

Write or call me for a list of better ways to establish adult freedom in your life -- I will be glad to help.

Tattoos are popular among people who are looking for permanence and security. A tattoo is something you can keep forever. No one can ever take it away from you, and in this changing and frightening world, it is understandable that people want something of their own that will stay with them. You can lose your teddy bear, or somebody might steal it, but the swan tat on your shoulder blade -- you can always have that, a friend forever who will never change or betray you. A flower that will never fade.
So there I was, sitting in the coffee shop, minding my own business, when the woman walks in with so many tattoos that it was LOUD, like she was wearing a dozen chipmunks on her shoulder and had a small alligator wrapped around her waist, and a banyan tree twining up her left leg, and perched on the tree was a flaming-red salamander. Kinda hard not to notice. But that's my annual tattoo rant, so, until next time, think before you ink.
Now We Have the Garden News. I'm going to harvest the red onions today. I planted them last fall and they should have gotten big by now, but I'm tired of waiting. Just dig them up and plant something else.
I will check this bag of seed packets and think about what to plant in place of where the onions were -- more cilantro maybe -- except we're coming into hot season, and it doesn't seem like a good time to plant anything.
The front yard sweet corn will be knee high soon. This is a lovely 5 by 12 patch right in back of the mailbox. It's an advertisement for the splendor of home gardening. "Grow Local, Eat Local" it says in a bright neon-green message to cars driving by. We will harvest the corn sometime in August and have a BBQ party, إن شاء الله (that's Arabic, "Insha'-Allah" which means God Willing, not strictly a Moslem saying but used by most Arabic speakers).
Next I will check the gopher trap I set early this morning. I have been serious about this lately. I go out first thing and look for fresh sign of the little dirt mounds they make. Then I dig it up and look for the tunnel and place the trap in it. I don't bother to bait it, or wear gloves to disguise human scent, or cover it to keep out the dark.
What I do is get 'em mad. Dig up their holes and let them know whose garden it is. Often enough they'll come right back to plug up the hole where I set the trap. Then they get caught.

I don't hate gophers -- All God's creatures have to make a living after all. But they can't eat my tomatoes.
Meanwhile we are harvesting nectarines and plums over at Mesa Harmony Garden. This is in a Santa Barbara neighborhood called the Mesa because it sits on a mesa -- a table top hill right near the beach that gets the cool ocean breeze and the morning fog. Not the best place for growing tomatoes because of the cool breeze, but awfully nice for garden workers among the fruit trees.

That's what we planted on this one-acre plot -- about 100 fruit trees -- plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears mainly, plus a small banana plantation. What people are realizing is that you can grow bananas in Santa Barbara -- using a variety that tolerates our warm and dry but not tropical climate. It will grow little bananas with orange-flavored sweetness, really excellent and toothsome, and banana trees are no trouble -- except they need water and plenty of room.
Water. At Mesa Harmony Garden, we say that "Labor is Free, but Water is Dear." It's all volunteer work and nobody gets paid, but the water bill comes every month and we are determined to get that monkey off our backs. We spread large quantities of leaf mulch. The city gives this leaf mulch away -- the end-product from the green waste containers. You can pick it up free at several locations. Mesa Harmony Garden, because we are a non-profit, can ask for a truckload -- 10 to 15 yards of mulch, and we can use it all.
Spreading mulch thickly under the trees delays evaporation and saves water. Also, the mulch smothers weeds, then breaks down and becomes an organic soil amendment. Good gardeners love mulch.

The other thing we do for water conservation is collect water off the parking lot and the roof of the Parish Hall. I need to backtrack and explain "Parish Hall." The garden occupies a one-acre fenced lot, property of the Holy Cross Catholic Church, but Mesa Harmony Garden is a separate organization, a formally organized non-profit corporation with a 15-year lease on the premises, which gives us the freedom and time necessary for planting an orchard.
The parking lot, almost as big as the garden itself, is slightly uphill from the garden, so we will capture all the runoff at the lower end and channel the water into a biological swale that will clean it up a bit before it flows onto the fruit trees.

Rain falls on the gutters of the Parish Hall and then flows into an above ground tank and that water gets piped downhill to the garden Rain water is free and why waste it.

We do not rent plots to individuals as many community gardens do. The prime directive for this orchard is growing fresh fruit for the Santa Barbara Food Bank. The harvest is not for sale or for trade, but we do get to munch on quite a few ripe nectarines as we pick them -- and this can be rationalized. A lusciously ripe and juicy peach may just as well be eaten on the spot, because it will never get to the Food Bank warehouse in time. Instead we aim to pick and deliver the firmer fruit to get a little shelf-life and allow for handling.
And we have gophers -- don't get me started. It's a constant battle. You know what the trick is for dealing with gophers? There is no trick. The only thing I can say is Never Give Up, because those little buggers will never give up either. This is nature in the raw, an endless struggle.
But I always want to believe what I hear about gophers, like someone said they never bother with the pepper plants, so when someone donated some habanero pepper bushes we planted them without gopher cages, and so far the gophers haven't touched them. Makes sense -- would you munch on habanero roots if you were a gopher?

Happy Summer,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

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