Gardening is something that has always been in my life. I enjoy growing plants--trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables, herbs, and anything else that grows in the ground. At times, my living situation did not provide much opportunity for a garden, but whenever there was space for a garden, I used it to the limits of space and time.
The gardens are an important feature of my California home. I am enamored with the number of house plants in NJ that grow outdoors here year round. However, gardening here is not without its problems. For example:
- My land is extremely rocky. One digs here with a pick, or even, sometimes, a jackhammer (yes, I have one of those). When digging, we sift the soil to remove the rocks, which may often amount to 50% of the volume of the soil. Sometimes we'll hit a really big rock--too large to remove. Then, the only choice is to abandon that location and look somewhere else. There are a lot of large rocks sitting about the garden, as you can see in the photos below. The ones covered with lichens are in their original positions--we didn't move them. Others (without lichens) we moved from somewhere else. In New Jersey, I would have given anything to have some rocks--here, I expend a lot of energy to get rid of them!
- The dry summers require the constant use of irrigation. Fortunately, I have plenty of water, so I can irrigate. However, an irrigation system requires continuous maintenance, and when new plantings are made, they have to be connected to the system.
- And then there are the critters. Because of the rocky soil, I haven't had much of a
problem with gophers, who are a bane to many of my neighbors (not everyone here has rocks).
The real problem for me is with raccoons. They come at night and get through or over the fences
and mess in the garden, eating fruits and vegetables. I used to have peach trees that bear profusely
every year, but I have yet to get a peach. It seems the raccoons know when I plan to pick peaches
and they come the night before for their harvest. They pick the peaches and sit there eating
them all night, leaving me with a pile of pits in the morning. So far, no method that I have
tried has solved the problem--each year I try something else. Then I got the idea to build a complete
wire cage enclosing the trees, which was completed in 2002. The peach trees were moved inside this
cage and for the first time, in 2004, we got a good crop of peaches. The cage also has seven raised
beds for growing vegetables. However, peaches are also susceptible to leaf curl disease, which is very
difficult to control. In 2006, I gave up and removed the peach trees. I still have lemon, fig, plum, apple, pluot, and orange trees, and blueberry, artichoke, and grapefruit plants. The lemons, oranges, and figs do wonderfully, the rest just survive.
- This is open ranch land, so we also have cattle and deer to contend with. Fencing pretty much takes care of them. (Text updated 11/2015.)
Here are some pictures of the garden in Spring 2006.
This picture was taken April, 2008 with a fisheye lens.
In spite of the problems, gardening here is a pleasure.