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Specializing in colorful, water-conserving gardens

Specializing in colorful, water-conserving gardens

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In the Garden with Joan

On her In the Garden blog, Joan provides practical advice about designing, planting and caring for gardens throughout Santa Barbara, the Central Coast and the state of California.

Edible Gardening with Children: Summer Playtime in the Garden

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It's never too early to start.

It’s never too early to start teaching your kids to tend edibles.

School’s out and there’s no better time to enlist your kids to grow fresh edibles. Many summer crops grow fast and yield bounty that children like to eat. Start your kids playing in the dirt early, and they’ll develop an appreciation for home-grown food and healthy habits for life.

If you don’t have children, gather your neighbors’ kids instead. Or simply vow to rediscover your inner child by taking time to view your garden with wide-eyed wonder, kneeling down to breathe in the scents and to inspect your emerging edibles from a ground-level perspective.

With the popularity of school gardens, some parents may even face a bit of role reversal, with their kids being the ones pestering them to plant veggies. Regardless of the youngsters you round up, don’t be intimidated if they seem to have more gardening experience than you do. The following is a quick-start guide, no matter who’s just beginning to dig in the dirt.

Getting Started

Green beans and sunflowers are both easy to grow.

Green beans and sunflowers are both easy to grow.

Select a sunny spot in your yard with a nearby source of water. Work in compost or other organic material to a depth of eight to 12 inches to improve the fertility of the bed and ensure that it drains well. Older children can use a shovel or rake to help prepare the soil, while the younger set may be content with stomping on dirt clods to break them up.

Solicit opinions about what to grow. Summer crops include beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash, sunflowers, tomatoes, tomatillos and zucchini. Warm-season herbs are good companion plants for attracting beneficial insects to the fray, and include basil, borage, chamomile, cilantro and dill.

Depending on the ages of your entourage, decide whether to grow their choices from seeds or plants. Large seeds that reliably sprout and are easy for young hands to grasp include beans, corn, pumpkins and sunflowers. Sow any of these directly in the ground.

You may be better off buying transplants of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, all of which can be fussy about germinating if our early-summer skies stay gray. Planting a few seedlings also provides instant gratification and helps remind your kids to water the bare spots where they’ve sown seeds that haven’t popped up yet.

Strategies for the Long Haul

Find ways to provide some action during the long gap between planting and harvest.

Choose edibles that grow by leaps and bounds, such as melons or pumpkins. Make a chart measuring how far their vines advance each day.

Build a teepee out of bamboo planting stakes, then train climbing pole beans up the stakes for a shady retreat. Plant a forest of tall sunflowers with a secret, open center in which your child can putter or daydream. Make a bench out of two overturned pots and a board.

Select plants that do something interesting along the way. Show your child how to squirt a kernel of corn or thunk a melon to test for ripeness.

Sweet Italian Long peppers are photogenic in the garden and beautiful on the plate.

Sweet Italian Long peppers are photogenic in the garden and beautiful on the plate.

Older children may get a kick out of growing a pizza garden, complete with peppers, tomatoes, basil and oregano. Competitive tykes might like to grow enormous vegetables, such as champion-size pumpkins or baseball bat zucchinis. Or go for oddball colors, such as purple string beans and yellow cherry tomatoes.

Some children may be more excited about bugs than vegetables. Buy a bag of live ladybugs to scatter at dusk. Supply a magnifying glass to watch the ladybugs devour aphids or to get up close and personal with earthworms, green lacewings and the like.

Take photographs, starting with the first day of planting. Turn over a camera to older children to document their own progress.

Hand-draw and color plant tags out of cardboard, construction paper or oversized popsicle sticks. Laminate them or slip them inside plastic sandwich bags, then attach them to stakes in the garden.

Don’t underestimate the magic of mud. If watering becomes too much of a chore, fill the buckets for your kids, then promise them that after they water their garden, they can have a few extra buckets to make a mud hole or draw pictures on the pavement.

Who can resist a Halloween pumpkin?

Who can resist growing a pumpkin for Halloween?

To avoid the, “When will we get there?” questions from younger children, tie maturity dates to events they can relate to. Tell them, “The pumpkins will be ready by Halloween,” “You can pick the beans when Grandma comes to visit in July,” or “The corn will be ready for our Labor Day picnic.”

Be prepared to step in and take over weeding and watering duties, or to stand back if your budding gardener insists on tending everything.

Arrange for a trustworthy friend to take special care of the garden if you leave on vacation. There’s nothing worse for a child — or an adult — than to discover that their tenderly nurtured seedlings have died due to someone else’s neglect.

Harvest Time

Growing their own food often results in children eating — or at least trying — vegetables that they otherwise reject. Kids who detest eggplant, for instance, might give it a nibble if they’ve grown their own.

Show your children how to check for ripeness by looking for the last tinges of green to vanish from a red tomato or the swelling of bush beans within their pods.

Put younger children in charge of spotting what’s ready to be picked. Older children can use a pair of sturdy kitchen scissors to harvest their crops.

Praise every effort. By learning to plant, nurture and harvest, your children will gain an appreciation of nature and an understanding of what they can accomplish by taking responsibility for a patch of earth. From such youthful beginnings do mighty gardeners grow.

# # #

This article was first published in Edible Santa Barbara.

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

Water Conservation and the Drought: Local Landscape Experts Meet to Discuss Ways to Cut Water Use

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Colorful bands of catmint (Nepeta) in the foreground and erect, white and purple sage (Salvia) provide exuberant color in this  waterwise garden.

Colorful bands of catmint (Nepeta) in the foreground and erect, white and purple sage (Salvia) provide exuberant color in this waterwise garden.

They’re not hitting the panic button yet. But there is an increasing sense of urgency on the part of local water agencies to get out the word that the drought is serious and that people need to start using significantly less water.

Earlier this week, water purveyors met at Chase Palm Park Center with about 30 landscape architects, designers, irrigation specialists, master gardeners and other landscape pros to talk about the drought and explore ways to capture the public’s attention.

“Obviously we had a lot of rain in recent days. But I want to make sure that people understand that we’re still at only 46 percent of normal,” said Len Fleckenstein, Water Conservation Coordinator for the Santa Barbara County Water Agency. He added, “Every day that percentage goes down, if we don’t get rain.”

Representatives from Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta said their water districts have already declared Stage One drought conditions, and are calling for consumers to voluntarily cut their water use by 20 percent. Mandatory restrictions of 20 percent or more could come as soon as this summer.
Continue reading

How to Keep Your Trees Healthy During the Drought

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Our beautiful coast live oaks are at risk from the drought and will benefit from deep, wintertime watering.

Our beautiful coast live oaks are at risk from the drought and will benefit from deep, wintertime watering.

Make like rain and start irrigating your trees.

The two gentle waves of rain that fell this week have been wonderful for washing off dust, freshening the air and moistening the soil. But they only put a dent in a water deficit that’s been building for the past few years. 2013 was one of our driest years on record and both Gov. Jerry Brown and Santa Barbara County have declared a drought emergency.

So why suggest upping your irrigation if we’ve had a little rain, plus we’re in a drought?

Because there’s so much to lose if you lose your trees.

Trees provide immense value to our landscapes. As foundation plants, they supply structure, shade and wildlife habitat, and take considerable years to grow. They are far more deserving of our precious water than thirsty lawns and smaller plants that are easier to replace. If you lose a 30-year-old tree to drought, you’ll have to wait another 30 years for a new one to grow the same size.

And given the current weather outlook, deep-irrigating your trees over the next few months is the best way to keep them healthy and head off drought stress, especially for our majestic coast live oaks.

“We’re in our third year of much lower than average rainfall,” said Heather Scheck, plant pathologist with Santa Barbara County Agriculture and Weights & Measures. “I already see signs throughout the south county that trees are seriously stressed.”

Those signs include smaller canopies; dry, twiggy branch tips; and leaves that have lost their sheen, are fewer in number and are steadily dropping. Ordinarily, coast live oaks push out most of their growth over winter, then go dormant during summer. But the drought is restricting their ability to produce new leaves and flowers, which leaves them more susceptible to pest infestations and disease.

Oaks and other mature trees that don’t ordinarily get irrigated face the greatest threat.

What To Do

That's too much blue sky!

That’s too much blue sky!

To see whether your trees are faltering, Scheck advises standing beneath each tree and looking up.

“Do you see a lot of blue sky? If it’s in your own yard, have you done any supplemental watering or has it only had rainfall as irrigation?”

Yet even if you don’t see signs of stress, it’s important to start watering.

“Now is the natural time for the trees to be receiving water as precipitation,” said Scheck. “Ideally, you would imitate natural rainfall as naturally as possible.”

Loop a soaker hose around the tree, as far from the trunk as it will reach. That ensures the best coverage throughout the root zone, which extends to the edge of the canopy and beyond. Or use a small, whirly sprinkler in the morning when the air is still, and move it to different spots around the tree every half hour or so.

Apply the water slowly. If there’s too much pressure, the water may run off rather than penetrate the top layer of earth or even a thick layer of mulch. Water for at least an hour. Wait a few hours or until the next morning, then dig around in the zone to see how deep and far the water has soaked in.

Scheck advises irrigating long enough that the water seeps at least a foot or two into the soil.

“A general rule is that 1 inch of water will penetrate 12 inches of soil. But that totally depends on your soil type. The goal is to go deep,” she said. “If you do it too fast, they don’t get the benefit. All we’re trying to do is replace the missing rain, trying to make up what’s missing, not go over.”

She noted that soaking trees is not at all like watering grass. Instead of frequent, shallow cycles, trees prefer deep watering every few weeks. Also, don’t bother to spray the leaves. The water should be directed at the roots, Scheck said.

If you’ve been raking away leaves from beneath your oaks, stop immediately. That loose, thick layer of leaves is marvelous mulch that keeps the soil surface cool and holds in moisture. If you don’t have several inches of build-up already, apply 2 two 3 inches of loose, organic material as soon as possible. Just don’t pile up the mulch against the trunk, as wet mulch against the bark can lead to disease.

What’s At Risk

If you use a sprinkler to soak your trees, run it slowly and pull it out toward the edge of the canopy so the water doesn't strike the trunk.

If you use a sprinkler to soak your trees, run it slowly and pull it out toward the edge of the canopy so the water doesn’t strike the trunk.

Trees that lie beyond the reach of our drip systems and sprinklers, instead relying on winter rains to quench their thirst, face the greatest peril.

But folks whose landscapes are filled with native and Mediterranean plants and turned off their irrigation last fall might want to deep-soak their plants a few times, too. As might people who put in new plants last fall and have patiently waited for winter rains to water them in.

Hydrating those plants now, at the time of year when they’re programmed to grow, should increase their vigor and enhance their ability to survive voluntary — or mandatory — water restrictions later on.

Likewise, the county is working to shore up its street trees.

Udy Loza, certified arborist for the Santa Barbara County Public Works Transportation Division, said he’s ordering several hundred “water gator” bags for young street trees that have no source of irrigation other than rainfall. The bags, which look like rugged trash sacks, typically hold about 20 gallons of water. They’re pocked with holes that slowly release the water within the trees’ root zones to give them a good, deep soak.

“Up until this last year and a half, we haven’t had a problem,” Loza said. “(Now) We’re really trying to ramp up our watering so we don’t lose our trees… The public can expect to see the gators over the next month or so.”

Additional Steps

The dead cluster on the left isn't of much concern because coast live oaks do naturally shed leaves. But the crispy edges on the green leaves in the center indicate the tree is already beginning to suffer.

The dead cluster on the left isn’t of much concern because coast live oaks do naturally shed leaves. But the crispy edges on the green leaves in the center indicate the tree is already beginning to suffer.

With voluntary water cutbacks of 20 percent now in place countywide, some folks may question why anyone would advise opening the tap even wider.

But stopping watering entirely, without any thought as to the future needs of your plants, may not be the wisest course of action.

Instead, set priorities as to which plants in your landscape are most important. As permanent fixtures that provide long-term beauty, shade, cooling, habitat for wildlife and protect the watershed, trees typically top the list.

Then take steps to ensure the health of your choices. Heavily mulch whatever those are, and water them carefully. Drip irrigation is often the most efficient method, since it applies water slowly, evenly and directly to a targeted area.

To get through the drought, don’t skimp on the “bones” of your landscape. Instead, let your lawn go dry, along with water guzzlers and other plants that can be most easily replaced when rains do return. Fill the new gaps with several inches of mulch to prevent the soil from cracking, to dissuade weeds from taking hold and to create a better look than bare dirt.

If you use organic material, such as wood chips, shredded wood or bark nuggets, put the mulch right on the soil. However, if you mulch with gravel, lay down landscape fabric — not black plastic — first. Landscape fabric is porous. It allows moisture and oxygen to reach the earth, but separates the gravel from the soil. Without it, in a few years the dirt is likely to come up through the gravel, the gravel is likely to get smooshed into the dirt and you’re likely to end up with a gritty mess.

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

It’s Time to Plant Bare-Root Deciduous Fruit Trees

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The first delicate blossoms of a Dorsett Golden apple tree appear in late winter.

The first delicate blossoms of a Dorsett Golden apple tree appear in late winter.

Garden miracle or lesson in patience?

Planting a bare-root, deciduous fruit tree is a little of both.

The garden miracle: that what looks like a stick with a few scraggly roots will ultimately yield a delicious bounty. The patience: you have to care for that stick for three to five years before it completes its transformation into a leafy tree that begins to bear fruit.

Now is the season for bare-root fruit trees. They’re dormant, so they don’t mind being stripped of soil, transported and planted before waking up, come spring. They include apple, apricot, cherry, fig, mulberry, nectarine, nectaplum, peach, pear, persimmon, plum, pluot and pomegranate.

The Big Chill

Deciduous fruit trees need winter cold to set fruit properly before breaking dormancy. That cold is measured in the number of hours that the temperature drops below 45 degrees between November 1 and February 28.

Hours can vary widely in different locations and from year to year. For instance, as of January 9, Santa Barbara had accumulated 177 chill hours. But by January 9, 2005, Santa Barbara had scored only 54 chill hours. However, in general, we can expect 50 to 200 chill hours a year on the coast, with inland areas receiving 400 to 1,000 or more. UC Davis tracks the data. Visit http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/, then click on “Weather-Related Models” for your area.

Selecting Trees

Anna apples require 200 chill hours. They bear heavy crops, especially when cross-pollinated by Dorsett Golden or Einshemer apples.

Anna apples require 200 chill hours. They bear heavy crops, especially when cross-pollinated by Dorsett Golden or Einshemer apples.

Stick to your chill hours, no matter how tempting a certain tree might be. For example, Dorsett Golden apples, from Bermuda, require next to no chill hours, while Golden Russet require 800 to 1,000.

In addition, if you don’t have much room, consider trees with dwarf rootstock, or grafted trees that have branches bearing three or four types of fruit, such as early, mid and late-season peaches.

Regardless of the variety, inspect the roots. They should be gray and limber, not black, shriveled or brittle. Look for good “spokes” radiating from the trunk; a smooth, strong bud union where the root stock is grafted to the trunk; and a trunk about the diameter of your thumb.

Don’t worry about the branches, other than making sure that they flex. You’ll probably tip back most of them when you plant. Be sure to get instructions from the grower for your particular tree.

Planting Time

May Pride peaches require 150 to 200 chill hours. They are early bearing and produce sweet, smooth-textured, medium-size fruit that is easy to peel and has freestone pits inside.

May Pride peaches require 150 to 200 chill hours. They are early bearing and produce sweet, smooth-textured, medium-size fruit that is easy to peel and has freestone pits inside.

Deciduous fruit trees need at least six hours of direct sunlight during the growing season to develop fruiting buds and mature fruit. Provide good drainage. If your soil stays soggy, shape a mound or build a raised bed. Avoid wind, which can damage or destroy buds and fruit. If you’re pushing the envelope with winter chill hours, plant in a low spot where cold collects, rather than near your house, driveway, patio or other hardscape that captures, then radiates heat.

Space small trees 8 to 10 feet apart and 4 to 5 feet from fences and walls. If their canopies reach 6 to 8 feet, you’ll have a foot or two to maintain them and pick the fruit. Plant larger trees as much as 20 to 25 feet apart.

Dig a hole three times as wide as the roots and a foot or so deep. Line the hole with 1/2-inch chicken wire or galvanized mesh to thwart gophers. Lay a shovel across the hole to determine the planting depth. The faint soil line on the trunk should end up an inch or two above the existing grade to allow for settling. This should also put the bud union 3 to 5 inches above the soil.

Mound a cone of excavated soil in the center. Place the tree on top, splaying out the roots, then fill the hole. Or hold the tree over the hole with one hand, then use the other hand to dribble in soil around the roots. Gently shake the trunk now and then to prevent air pockets as you go.

Shape a basin around the tree. Fill with an inch or two of organic mulch, keeping it from piling against the trunk. Don’t apply fertilizer. The roots already have enough stored energy to break dormancy and any salt in the fertilizer may burn new roots.

A Quick Trim

What to expect from an Anna apple after about (gasp!) 5 to 6 years. A lesson in patience, indeed.

What to expect from an Anna apple after about (gasp!) 5 to 6 years. A lesson in patience, indeed.

Don’t be surprised if the nursery instructions call for cutting down your “tree” to a knee-high stick. While techniques vary from one variety to the next, in general, expect to snip off the top just above a bud that’s 30 to 36 inches off the ground, then trim the side branches to 3-inch stubs bearing two or three buds.

During the first growing season, new whips are likely to shoot out in every direction. In July or August, cut back the new growth by up to half, with an eye toward evenly spaced, strong, balanced branches that will allow plenty of air to flow through the tree.

Watering

At planting time, give your new tree a thorough watering. If the surrounding soil is dry, it’s likely to wick away moisture, so run the water for a while.

Over winter, deciduous fruit trees are dormant and don’t need much water. After that first watering, you may be able to get by on rain alone.

But as your tree stirs to life, start paying attention. UC Cooperative Extension notes that a healthy, first-year fruit tree that’s not been mulched requires 5 to 10 gallons of water a week. A mulched tree needs less. Let the top inch or two of soil dry out between waterings, then use drip irrigation or a trickling hose to give your tree a slow, deep soak.

Resources

Winter 2013

Winter 2013

baylaurelnursery.com
This mail-order nursery, based in Atascadero, offers hundreds of different fruit trees, shrubs and vines. Each description includes the root stock and number of chill hours required.

davewilson.com
While the nursery operations are wholesale only, the website provides bountiful information for home gardeners.

homeorchard.ucdavis.edu
The site offers in-depth articles about all aspects of backyard orchard culture, ranging from propagation to pollination, pests, diseases and harvest.

This article was first published in the Winter 2013 issue of Central Coast Farm & Ranch.

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

Poinsettias Don’t Have to Get Tossed With the Gift Wrap

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Poinsettias provide brilliant winter color outdoors in this Santa Barbara neighborhood.

Poinsettias provide brilliant winter color outdoors in this Santa Barbara neighborhood.

Face it. While your poinsettias may still be in picture-perfect condition, they’re likely to collapse after the first of the year.

Then the easiest course of action is to toss them into the green waste. But I often feel a twinge of guilt for discarding what might be a perfectly reasonable plant.

In most parts of the country, the climate takes care of the decision. It’s too darned cold in the winter or too blazing hot in the summer for poinsettias to survive.

But they will live happily in the garden here on the Central Coast, provided they receive plenty of sunlight and moist, fast-draining soil. They also need protection from wind and freezing temperatures.

By Way of Background

Poinsettias are native to tropical highlands in Mexico and Central America. Their common name honors Joel Robert Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who spotted the plants in southern Mexico and brought them to South Carolina in the early 1800s.

The basic species, Euphorbia pulcherimma, is a winter-blooming shrub that grows 6 to 10 feet tall in the wild. The 35 to 40 million potted plants sold during the holidays today share a common ancestry, but are bred and grown for smaller size, color, style and ease of shipping.

Wait Now, Plant Later

Poinsettias detest cold weather, so now is not the time to plant them. Instead, put your plants — still in their pots — in a cool, sheltered spot, such as a protected patio or garage. After the leaves drop, cut the stems down to a few inches tall. Water sparingly, keeping the soil barely damp.

Soaring twice as tall as the stucco wall, this poinsettia has taken on tree-like proportions alongside roses and cascading purple lantana.

Soaring twice as tall as the stucco wall, this poinsettia has taken on tree-like proportions alongside roses and cascading purple lantana.

When temperatures warm in spring, plant your poinsettias in full sun. Look for a spot that’s out of the wind, doesn’t get frosty and has excellent drainage.

Plenty of head room is important, too. In the garden, your formerly 1 to 2-foot-tall plants may stretch head-high or taller, unless you faithfully pinch back the stems every few weeks during the growing season.

If you forgo the pinching, consider planting something short in front of them, as poinsettias are often scraggly within the first few feet of ground.

After planting, spread an inch or two of mulch around each plant, then thoroughly water them in. Plan to water every week or two, or more frequently if their leaves go limp. If you opt to fertilize, apply a high-nitrogen product twice a month once the leaves begin to turn red.

As for when that happens — the “bloom” is a result of the colored bracts, or modified leaves, responding to longer nights. Poinsettias need about 12 hours of darkness to trigger the change, with the leaves then taking several months to mature, depending on the variety, temperature and intensity of light.

If you plant your poinsettias near an all-night patio light or street light, they might not bloom until well into January. Commercial growers manipulate the light to create plants that are prematurely colored up from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

The Forcing Route

If you absolutely must have a poinsettia that stays compact and reblooms at Christmas, don’t plant it in the ground.

Instead, commercial growers recommend the following.

Keep the poinsettia in its pot. When the leaves drop, cut back the stems to 6 inches tall, leaving two joints on each stem. Water when the top inch or so of soil dries out and pinch back new growth every few weeks to encourage a tighter, fuller shape.

In mid September to early October, start controlling the light.

Every night for eight to 10 weeks, move the pot into a dark closet for 14 hours. Then put it in the sun for 10 hours every day. Two months of the routine is said to produce a dense, compact plant with vivid holiday color.

As for whether the exacting regimen works, I’ve never had the staying power to try it, but would welcome hearing from anyone who has.

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

My Newest Venture: My In the Garden Column Will Begin Running in Noozhawk

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I’m happy to announce that I’ll now be contributing my In the Garden articles to Noozhawk.com.

Noozhawk, “the freshest news in Santa Barbara,” is an online-only news service that delivers essential local news and community information to readers in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito, Carpinteria, Summerland and the rest of Santa Barbara County.

The beauty of an online “newspaper” is that it’s not limited to traditional deadlines, it’s always ready to post breaking news, you can easily retrieve any article day or night, and you never again have to struggle with rain-soaked pages or smudge your fingers!

Here’s my introductory article, which is running now. Or if you prefer, you can read it, along wtih my first column about planting California natives, at Noozhawk.com.

Why, that's me! In the Garden!

Why, that’s me, in the garden. Imagine that!

Hi there. I’d like to introduce myself as Noozhawk’s newest features columnist.

I’ve been writing about gardening for more than 25 years, have been designing colorful, water-conserving gardens for nearly 20 years, and have had my hands in the dirt for more years than I can count.

While I can’t say I’ve never met a plant that I didn’t like, there are very few that I don’t appreciate in some capacity or another. Fortunately for me, as well as my readers and clients, we live in an amazingly benevolent climate that allows us to grow a phenomenal number of different, beautiful plants in any number of combinations and styles.

For my In the Garden features for Noozhawk, I plan to provide practical, hands-on advice about designing, planting and caring for gardens throughout Santa Barbara and the Central Coast. I’ll write about edibles, too, including seasonal crops, perennial vegetables and fruit trees.

I could throw around words like sustainable, green gardening and the like. But whatever you call it, I believe the most successful gardens are filled with a broad mix of California natives and other Mediterranean plants that are well adapted to our seasonal cycle of warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters.

That diversity is sure to attract and sustain smaller forms of wildlife, such as beneficial insects, bees, birds and butterflies, all of which help to create a good biological balance that in turn promotes healthier plants.

However, you’ll still find me muttering occasionally about larger foragers. Deer top my personal list of pesky mammals, but gophers, ground squirrels and rabbits are rather annoying, too.

My husband Tom and I garden on 4 acres of heavy clay soil in western Goleta. We’ve planted several thousand perennials, shrubs, ground covers and trees on what was once a raw, weedy plot when we moved here 21 years ago. We also grow about 30 avocado, citrus and fruit trees, along with vegetables and herbs year-round. Our previous home, in the heart of the Goleta Valley, had rich, loamy, beautifully fertile soil. Our new spot has taken some getting used to, but we’ve pretty well figured it out by now.

I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge, and appreciate your interest.

Copyright, Joan S. Bolton. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text or photos in any form is prohibited without written permission.

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