My Ugly Garden

My Ugly Garden

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The river before

..and mid way through

The vegetable garden has been put on hold for a bit as I have started to tackle a different part of the Ugly. The far south east part of the yard has been a favorite of my kids from the beginning. When we moved in, there was an overgrown Mock Orange bush and a small ditch. We trimmed up the bush to resemble a small tree and put in stepping stones to lead around the back of the deck. A perfect secret passage for play. A bit of digging in the ditch revealed a treasure trove of river rock that had been buried. After digging out and washing all that rock and lining the ditch with landscape fabric, we now had a cool dry river bed. I was very proud of it. Well, I had made a crucial mistake: I made the ditch too deep with no reinforcement of the banks. So before long, the beautiful rock was buried in dirt and leaf litter.

I then did what many discouraged gardeners do, I threw my hands up in disgust and let it go. Every year it would get messier and uglier while I would get more irritated every time I looked at it. My kids, however, still loved crossing the "river" and playing in the "tree". Now enter baby number 3, who desperately wants to keep up with her brother and sister, teetering precariously down the washed out embankment.

Enter Mom, who now needs to make this area a bit safer for the little one. So, last week, with Daniel's help, we started digging out the rocks and cleaning them up. I filled in the ditch, hopefully it is shallow enough to prevent dirt from washing down into it. I also relined with landscape fabric and extended the rocks up a bit further onto the "bank". The other nice addition comes courtesy of I posted a request on my local group site for some hen and chick succulent plants, hoping for maybe 5 to 10 plants. The very nice woman who responded provided me with 3 grocery bags full and a bird of paradise plant. Boy, was I grateful! You can see in the picture above, the succulents, but the bird of paradise is dormant right now. I'll post a picture of it when some new grow appears.

The area is shaping up nicely. And my little Eva can negotiate the steps a bit easier. I am about half done. Still a bunch of rocks to pull out, and some filling in to do. I'm hoping the shallower depth is the key to keeping this nice a bit longer than my last go around. The other excellent thing about this project is that so far it has only cost me time.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Spring has definitely sprung here. And despite feeling a bit overwhelmed by the exponential growth of weeds around the Ugly, a bit of hope emerged. I was able to put a salad on the table composed of veggies grown in our yard! Ok, so it only has two lettuces in it, but I'm working on the baby step method here. Last fall, my oldest daughter and I planted several cool season veggies just to see what would happen. On Thursday I harvested two small heads of lettuce and some Miner's lettuce to compliment our pasta dinner. The Miner's lettuce is native here in California and some transplants were given to me last summer by a neighbor of mine. I was so excited when they sprouted a few weeks ago. They have a delicious and delicate flavor, and we actually preferred the taste of the Miner's lettuce over the traditional lettuce. It was topped with a simple shallot vinaigrette.

It is amazing how this simple little salad has strengthened my resolve to get more food growing here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


This is our little friend, Mrs. Magorium. She and Mr. Magorium frequent the feeders in yard. Daniel spilled some seed as we filled the feeders the other day and the Mrs. wandered up onto the porch for a snack. I was able to snap a couple of pictures through the french door without scaring her away. We have had quite a few birds visit us this winter, which has been very exciting. It has been fun trying to identify the different species, and the interesting thing is to watch the differing mannerisms. The confident bully, Mr. Scrub Jay; the nervous white crowned sparrow flock and our easy going Mr. & Mrs. Magorium (mourning doves). There is even a black eyed Junco, which I call Mr. Junco. Ok, so you now know I am horrible at naming things. Just ask my kids, who's stuffed animals have names like Lamby, Puppy and Turtle. My one year old is even better at coming up with names than I am. She renamed Bunny to Hop. I like hers better.

I attribute our larger bird population to the unfortunate demise of our two cats late last year. It was very sad to lose our two little feline pals, but it has been fun to see all the different birds this year. Daniel has been learning to identify a few too, which is very exciting. He recognizes the doves' call and the hummingbird chirps. Education provided by nature- priceless.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wild Weather and Weeds

Here in sunny CA, we aren't used to very much variety in weather patterns. Mostly sun, fog and some rain, that's about it. So when we get hail, it is a newsworthy event. You can see the hail collecting on my comatose patio umbrella. This little bit of weather passed through yesterday, and today Daniel and I were able to head outside for a little bit. I often wonder if I have a bit of OCD when it comes to weed pulling in the back yard. The second picture is of Daniel hiding behind Mt. Weedmore.
Once upon a time I had a nice lush lawn, but a construction project cut the irrigation lines to both the back and front. So now weeds are choking out the precious little grass patches that are left. The dominant weed present right now is burclover. Currently it is a lush green color, however, this gives way to nasty little burrs that stick to everything. I have been pulling these out like a mad woman the last few days from a 3 by 6 foot area. The bad news is that I only have about 1000 square feet more to go. The good news is that there is a small patch of liberated grass. Why not just mow it down? Good question. I have a thing about lawn mowers. I leave that task to my husband. But he can only mow on the weekends and the last several have been to wet to mow. In the mean time the burclovers are starting to flower, so I will keep pulling until he gets a chance to clear the rest of it for me. Another possible down side to pulling is that there is now nice open dirt patches for new weeds to come up. But I am hoping that the grass will fill in first. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


My son and I were out puttering in the Ugly today. Pulling weeds, blowing bubbles, kicking the ball around, nothing serious. Like I said, puttering. Daniel said he was ready to go inside. "Mom, there is a big storm coming, let's go in." I told him to wait, I wanted to take a few pictures, "don't worry." I said. As I snapped a couple shots of some Miner's Lettuce growing next to the fence, and told my son to look at me and smile. He couldn't do it, he kept looking up at the clouds, "Mom, we better go in, a big storm is coming." "Don't worry." I said. I puttered back toward the house, Daniel was already inside. No sooner had I closed the door behind me, when the sky opened up and a down pour of rain started to fall and gusting winds. Sometimes I think adults dismiss children's intuition to quickly. Ok, maybe, I dismiss my children's intuition too quickly. I think I would do better to listen more closely next time.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Still here

Bad weather and illness have kept me out of the garden for about a week. A break in the weather allowed my son to jump in the mud puddles and I was able to cut several more fence posts and pull a bunch of weeds. The tepee is also coming along nicely. With each fence post, I can add a branch or two to the tepee, and the monstrous stick pile in the front is also shrinking thanks to my sawing. I am a little worried about my transplanted roses. They don't look very well and I may need to move them back into the ground sooner than I thought. We'll see.